Manila, Philippines — Seventy percent of Filipinos subsist on a P42 daily budget.
Senator Edgardo J. Angara, citing a World Bank study, bared this on Tuesday as he expressed reservations over the proposed P1.645-trillion budget for 2011 which he said is not practical.
“My main concern about the overall budget framework is that it is not responding to the basic, economic, and social problems of our country,” said Angara who formerly headed the Senate’s Finance Committee.
Angara said the budget proposal “simply did not address the fundamental needs of the country” as he is hoping that fiscal allocations would respond to address the public’s basic needs.
The Senate on Monday started deliberations on the proposed 2011 budget which contains P711.5 billion of automatic appropriations.
The budget includes P357.1 billion worth of debt service and interest payments, P286.9 billion for Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), and P22.4 billion for government contribution for employees’ retirement and life insurance premiums.
Senator Franklin Drilon had said the government’s main thrust is to pay interests and amortization amounting to P357.1 billion which it is mandated to do under the appropriations law.
But Angara said the government should not concern itself much with taming the country’s deficit and should instead appropriate funds directed on addressing economic and social concerns.
"About 70 percent of our people live on 42 pesos a day, and about 4,000 families are hungry. That’s a very serious problem. It’s not just simply lack of economic growth, but what we have is a jobless growth which widens the income gap even more,” Angara said.
“We should concern ourselves not so much with taming our deficit. Instead we should remind ourselves that our goal is to grow our country, and enhance the income and living standards of our people through job creation,” he added.
Angara further questioned why the government seems to be pulling out stimulus programs right in the middle of a steady recovery in the midst of a global financial crisis.
“What is the comparative figure for Southeast Asia? Their debt-to-GDP ratio is even higher than ours but they are more progressive because they are using public spending to stimulate growth in their economy. Why are we suddenly pulling out stimulus right in the middle of a steady, gradual recovery of our economy? It’s as if we assume we have already achieved full recovery, which we have not. I question that kind of judgment,” said Angara.
There is also a need for government to design a hunger mitigation program and to identify the demographics of the country’s poor.
“It seems as if there is not much of this proposed budget put into agriculture and food. And because food production is underinvested, food prices will rise in the next five years. On the other hand, a 1 percent increase in agriculture production transmits to almost 1.2 percent in farmers’ income, or reduction of farmers’ poverty,” said Angara.
Hannah Torregoza, Manila Bulletin