PEOPLE line up to receive financial aid in hard cash at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

NONGOVERNMENT organizations pressing for more inclusive spending said the next government needs to encourage broader public participation in the budget process, noting the need to make the recovery effort more “equitable.”

The People’s Budget Coalition (PBC) said in a statement that the budgeting process needs to be more transparent, and called on Presidential candidates to commit to fund P1.2 trillion in measures designed to effect a recovery and shield the public from high fuel prices.

“We call on the candidates running for the highest positions of government to open up space for meaningful citizen participation in the national budget process.”

“We ask the next administration to correct the deadly blunders we see in the national budget and invest in P1.2 trillion for a just, equitable, and inclusive recovery,” it added.

The PBC last year also asked Congress to allocate P1.2 trillion or about one-fifth of the P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022 for programs addressing the public health crisis, such as cash aid during lockdowns and virus containment measures.

Only P118 billion or 10% of the P1.2-trillion recovery package it proposed was included in the approved 2022 budget, Zy-za Nadine Suzara of the PBC said at a virtual forum.

“Of the P118 billion included in the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA), only P69 billion — a measly 6% — of the coalition’s proposal was funded under the Programmed Appropriations of the 2022 GAA,” she said. “P49 billion or 4% of our proposal were parked under the Unprogrammed Appropriations and has no guaranteed funding.”

Ms. Suzara said politics “took precedence” over inclusive economic recovery, estimating the election-friendly measures designed to shore up politicians’ popularity at P292 billion, much of it in the budget of the Public Works department.

“Not only were the coalition’s proposals disregarded, but other socio-economic programs were delisted from the regular budgets of various agencies,” she said, noting that regular and more urgent programs were parked under unprogrammed appropriations. “These do not have guaranteed funding.”

The coalition said its proposed economic recovery package was equivalent to about one-third of the revenue the government is expected to collect this year.

Ms. Suzara said the next administration should strike a balance between human capital development and public infrastructure investment.

“Without which, it is difficult to imagine not only an inclusive and equitable society but more importantly, a competitive one,” she said.

The PBC also urged the government to collect major tax liabilities outstanding, including P23 billion in unpaid estate tax from the heirs of the late former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, whose son and namesake is running for President in the 2022 election.

The original P23-billion tax liability, which has been swelled by interest and penalties to more than P200 billion, can be used to fund social services. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza