Next year’s budget to focus on Marcos’ priority sectors

THE PROPOSED P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023 will focus on the Marcos administration’s top priorities such as education, health, infrastructure, social safety nets, and agriculture, Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman said on Tuesday.

During the post-State of the Nation Address (SONA) economic briefing, Ms. Pangandaman said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is still finalizing the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) which will be submitted to Congress on Aug. 22.

The proposed P5.268-trillion budget accounts for 22% of gross domestic product (GDP), and is 5% higher than this year’s P5.024-trillion budget.

Ms. Pangandaman expressed hope the budget bill will be approved by Congress before the Christmas break.

“Our budget will support our medium-term fiscal framework and the eight-point agenda… First, of course, is funding for education. It is the top priority, as mandated by the Constitution,” Ms. Pangandaman said.

“We will use and allocate our scarce resources to be able to finance our priority programs and projects. We will ensure that every peso in our GAA (General Appropriations Act) will be spent and implemented timely,” she added.

Since the Marcos administration promised to continue the “Build, Build, Build” program, she said the DBM will provide funding support for infrastructure projects.

“As directed by the President, we shall continue with the ‘Build Build Build,’ and expand it further,” Ms. Pangandaman said, adding that spending on infrastructure is seen to reach P2 trillion by 2028.

The Marcos administration is targeting an infrastructure spending-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio of 5-6% annually from 2023 to 2028.

The infrastructure program for this year is at P1.2 trillion, accounting for 5.5% of GDP.

In his first SONA on Monday, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said the government should aspire to “build, better, more.”

“Necessarily, infrastructure development will remain a very high priority in our drive for growth and employment. Once again, I will not suspend any of the ongoing projects as those have already been shown to be of benefit to the public that they serve,” Mr. Marcos said.

The DBM will also roll out the Budget and Treasury Management System.

“It is an online ledger of all transactions of the government, from planning up to the release of the budget. We will see the levels of the budget in real time. You’ll see the releases; you’ll see the balances of our budget. So, it will ensure transparency in government transactions,” she said.

Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said they are now reviewing which spending items should be assigned to local government units (LGUs), as the Mandanas ruling is implemented this year.

“In an executive order issued by President Duterte before he left office, he specified some of the items that are now going to be assigned to LGUs. These are not really new items… except that there are some items that should not be there in the first place,” he said.

“Right now, we are reviewing what spending items should be assigned to LGUs, and we are in close coordination with the needs of cities, provinces, etc.,” he added.

Mr. Marcos also highlighted this issue during his SONA on Monday.

“We have been in discussion with local government leaders, governors and mayors, in the last few weeks to determine, with the LGUs, what is actually practicable, what functions belong to the LGUs and what belong to the National Government,” Mr. Marcos said.

The President noted some “complications” arose over who will repair school buildings in relation to the Mandanas ruling.

Starting this year, LGUs received a bigger share of the National Government’s tax collections, alongside the transfer of basic services.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte in June 2021 signed Executive Order (EO) No. 138 which transfers a number of basic services to LGUs by 2024. With this, the government is shifting programs and projects, worth an estimated P234.4 billion, to LGUs. — D.G.C.Robles