LAWMAKERS of both chambers of Congress are moving to avoid another delay in enactment of the national budget, which has put the government’s economic growth target this year at risk.
Davao City 3rd district Rep. Isidro T. Ungab, who heads the House of Representatives Appropriations committee, said in a text message on Wednesday that his panel on Aug. 22 will start deliberations on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for next year that will be submitted by the Executive branch before the Aug. 21 deadline to do so.
In a statement on Wednesday, House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez of Leyte’s 1st District said the chamber will “continue to hold budget briefings so that our colleagues will have enough time to raise their concerns” with state economic managers, as well as heads of departments and agencies.
“We also appeal to our colleagues to avoid repetitive questions during formal budget deliberations.”
Senate Finance committee chairman Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara — who had said that the target is to have the 2020 national budget ready for signing into law by Dec. 15, ahead of Dec. 21-Jan. 19 Christmas-New Year break — said separately in a mobile phone message: “We’ll work closely with the Senate and House leaders and my counterpart in the House, Rep. Sid Ungab, to make sure we do everything humanly possible to pass the budget in a responsible and timely manner…”
President Rodrigo R. Duterte and his Cabinet approved the 2020 national budget on Aug. 5.
In its July 18 meeting, the Development Budget Coordination Committee retained a budget deficit ceiling equivalent to 3.2% of gross domestic product for next year, with targeted P3.536-trillion revenues — consisting largely of P3.332-trillion tax collections — helping to cover P4.214 trillion in programmed expenditures.
The government had operated on a reenacted 2018 budget from January to April 15, when Mr. Duterte signed this year’s national budget into law but vetoed P95.3 billion in funds that were not in sync with state priorities, slashing the total to P3.662 trillion.
Resistance among House leaders to the Budget department’s shift to a “cash-based budget” that took into consideration state offices’ limited capacity to spend, and later accusations of irregular fund insertions legislative chambers hurled against each other caused the 2019 budget to miss its end-2018 enactment deadline.
The impact could be seen in official infrastructure and other capital outlays data showing that disbursements fell by 11.7% year-on-year to P311.4 billion last semester, missing a P392.9-billion program for that period by a fifth.
State economic managers and private economists blamed the delay in budget enactment — which left new projects unfunded — for the 5.5% economic growth last semester that compares to a reduced 6-7% target for 2019. — V. A. C. Ferreras with CAT