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Teddy Casiño, Bayan Muna Requested to be inserted into the records last Oct. 16, 2010 Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues. On behalf of Bayan Muna and the progressive party list bloc, I register our objection to the proposed General Appropriations Bill for the year 2011. Despite avowals of being a social reform budget that is transparent and accountable, the proposed P1.64 trillion national government budget is everything but that. The 2011 budget is a concrete expression of government’s shrinking responsibility and abdication of its duty to work for the people’s interest. With its huge allocation for debt servicing and dole-outs, increased pork barrel and defense spending, privatization of development via public-private partnerships, and lack of transparency and accountability, this budget is no different nor less crooked than previous budgets. A small and shrinking budget for our people The 2011 budget is actually a small and shrinking budget relative to the needs of our people for development and improved government services. At only 18.2% of the GDP, a decrease since 2010, it is one of the smallest national budgets in the region. This budget continues the tragic legacy of automatically appropriating a quarter to as much as a half of the national budget to debt servicing alone, at the expense of social services and development. The biggest increase in the 2011 budget is in debt servicing at P80.9 billion, by far the largest absolute increase in the country’s history, consuming almost 80% of the total budgetary increase of P104.4 billion. Net of this item, the budget actually shrinks in real terms by two percent. In contrast, there are large cuts in the budgets for vital sectors such as agriculture and agrarian reform which falls by P23.1 billion or 26.0%; communication, roads and transportation which falls by P7.9 billion or 5.2%; water resources development and flood control off by P4 billion or 21.4%; and power and energy which falls by P3.4 billion or 65.5%. The National Food Authority and National Electrification Administration practically have zero budgets. The cuts pave the way for further privatization of critical public infrastructure. A token land reform budget and absence of funding for subsidies for farmers reveal government’s continued abandonment of agriculture and genuine agrarian reform.
Social services are non-priorities as the already insufficient health budget falls even further by 3.5% from P40 billion to P38.6 billion. There is a P1.3 billion cut in the budgets of our public and specialty hospitals. The education budget has been slashed to P172 billion from P174 billion this year and is at least P100 billion short of the required budget to address the shortages in teachers, classrooms and other facilities. All state colleges and universities will get nothing in capital outlay and almost all will suffer cuts in MOOE, with the largest in the University of the Philippines (20%) and the Philippine Normal University (24%). A rehashed, flawed anti-poverty program Perhaps the most objectionable feature of the proposed budget is its adoption and expansion of the previous administration’s flawed and short-sighted conditional cash transfer (CCT) program at the expense of cuts in spending for direct services and basic infrastructure. The Aquino government’s centerpiece anti-poverty program is a World Bank and Asian Development Bank-designed and funded program that lulls the poor into a continued state of abject poverty and mendicancy by handing out money to them without providing them gainful employment or livelihood. The CCT – the largest dole-out program in the country’s history at a whopping P21 B – is a mere statistic booster. After the fund is depleted and the poverty statistics artificially increased, what is left is the same poor, jobless family who cannot get decent services from government. The Executive’s move to expand the previous administration's CCT program is a clear indication of its lack of foresight and eye for critical social investments. Not only does the CCT offer an empty promise of alleviating poverty, it further contributes to the country’s worsening financial health with its added burden of multi-billion loans from international financial institutions. We ask, why not invest these huge funds directly in public schools, health centers and hospitals for them to provide free and quality education and health care for all, especially the poor? We don’t need to pay people cash if the services in our schools and health centers are accessible, adequate and excellent. Furthermore, the CCT program strengthens the corrupt, patronage-based political system. At the end of the day, politics will dictate who gets these cash transfers. President Aquino’s decision to continue it shows that his administration is not far away from the footsteps of his predecessor whose economic vision was a hodgepodge of populist programs and band-aid solutions. A huge war budget In the face of huge increases in debt servicing and dole-outs and cuts in basic services and development is a huge war chest through the budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which will be getting an all-time high augmentation of 81% in utter
disregard of the AFP’s dismal record in human rights. The increase, including P5 billion in “modernization funds” is being allocated despite the AFP’s failure to follow UN recommendations, through the Alston Report, that reforms be made in the government’s counter-insurgency program to stop the policy of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, red-baiting and witch hunting of activists and political dissenters. The Aquino government is, in fact, closely hewing to the US counter-insurgency guide that masquerades behind socio-civic activities to hide its militaristic, all-out war approach to the armed rebellion without addressing its root causes. More pork for everyone A glaring feature of the proposed budget is its lack of transparency and accountability. Maintained in the special purpose funds and tucked into the budgets of the various departments are huge lump sum allocations – estimated by some of our colleagues at more than P500 billion – whose eventual disbursement remains a mystery to most of us. We have been demanding lists of projects to be funded by these lump sums to no avail. Instead of a clear and concrete line item presentation of such projects, the Executive promised a guaranteed pork barrel of P50 million per congressman from the DPWH lump sums to placate legitimate calls for an equitable distribution of government resources. More lump sums at the discretion of the Executive and more lump sums at the discretion of legislators mean only one thing – more pork, more patronage politics and more corruption. Privatization of development Lastly, Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, we object to the allocation of P15 billion to public-private partnership (PPP) projects – again a lump sum amount. This is nothing but a sugar-coating of the outmoded privatization policy imposed by foreign creditors and governments on developing countries, where government’s role in national development is practically reduced to being a mere facilitator of private contracts. What we are witnessing is the shrinking of government and abdication of its role in development. Government will be left to engage mainly in handing out dole-outs, law enforcement and providing minimum social services. Tertiary education will be corporatized and eventually privatized, as will be health and other government functions. Government ends up being a mere regulator of strategic sectors like power, water, oil and petroleum, transportation and communications that will be controlled by the private corporations. This is the discredited neoliberal framework of governance that underlies the 2011 budget. The 2011 budget reflects the lack of substantial reforms that provide for gainful employment, that strengthen domestic and local industries especially agriculture, and that
provide for the establishment of basic, integrated industries vital to national development. The government’s abdication of its prime duty to promote, protect and serve the interest of the Filipino people is the main hallmark of the Aquino administration’s budget. The winds of change promised by the new government are really more of the same, if not worse, this time around. For all these reasons, we object to the proposed 2011 budget and will be pushing for amendments at the proper time. Thank you.#
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