DBM awaits new Speaker before submitting 2020 proposed nat'l budget | Inquirer Business
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DBM awaits new Speaker before submitting 2020 proposed nat’l budget

By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 11:04 AM July 02, 2019

MANILA, Philippines–While incoming members of the upcoming 18th Congress determine who will be the next House Speaker and Senate President, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has decided to hold off the submission of the proposed P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget on the day of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona).

On the sidelines of the 2019 Pre-Sona Economic and Infrastructure Forum on Monday, DBM Officer-in-Charge Janet B. Abuel told reporters that the agency was wrapping up the budget proposal for next year, with the “tier two” appropriations to be finalized within this week.

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Earlier DBM documents showed that a fiscal space of P911.7 billion will cover expanded and new activities, programs and projects in tier two, to account for 22.2 percent of the total cash-based budget cap.

Of the proposed 2020 appropriations, 44.9 percent or P1.843 trillion will cover departments and agencies’ priority programs, projects and activities included in the so-called tier one budget ceiling.

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Meanwhile, automatic appropriations (for internal revenue allotment and net lending, among others) and special purpose funds (such as special shares to local government units and contingent fund, among others) will amount P1.346 trillion, accounting for 32.8 percent of the total.

In the coming weeks, the DBM will coordinate with government agencies and seek Cabinet confirmation before submitting the budget bill to Congress, Abuel said.

According to Abuel, the DBM was “on track, within the timeline” to submit the 2020 budget proposal.

Abuel noted that the DBM had been mandated to transmit the proposed appropriations for the succeeding year within 30 days after Congress opens its session—so since the 18th Congress opens on July 22, the budget can be submitted until Aug. 21

However, unlike during the time of Abuel’s predecessors like former DBM chief and now Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno, who had filed the yearly budget proposals on the first day of session coinciding with the President’s Sona, the DBM this time will first wait a few days after new leaders of both houses of Congress were installed.

Abuel had also earlier said that next year’s budget will be submitted, if not during the day of Sona, at least a day after it at the latest.

Explaining the change in tack, Abuel said: “We’ll have to wait because we need to have a very close coordination with Congress. So we need to wait for their leadership, so that we won’t put to waste [our submission] and it would move faster.”

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Especially in the Lower House where the race of Speakership was quite cut-throat, Abuel said it was “important to know” first who will become House Speaker.

Upon election of the new leaders of Congress, the DBM “will not be waiting that long—we’re targeting, worst-case scenario, first half of August because they also have their own timeline” to submit the budget proposal, Abuel said.

“After the new Speaker is installed, everything is more or less crystalyzed. We’re going to work very fast so that as early as we can, we can be able to submit. But it’s really important to know [who will be the House Speaker] so we know we can work with the leadership,” she added.

Asked if the DBM was bracing for a similar incident as last year when the P3.7-trillion national budget for 2019 suffered an impasse in Congress, Abuel replied: “We’re more positive now. We’re not really fearing, but we’re preparing for it just in case. That’s why now we don’t want to rush—we want to wait instead of submitting the day after [the Sona] even if we’re ready. We want also to at least have coordination [with Congress] so that the relationship is better and that the proposed budget will be preserved as much as possible.”

To recall, President Duterte signed the 2019 budget only on April 15 or over four months late as the two houses of Congress squabbled over “pork” funds.

As such, the government operated under reenacted 2018 appropriations at the start of the year and underspent about P1 billion a day on public goods and services.

And as a result, gross domestic product (GDP) growth fell to a four-year low of 5.6 percent in the first quarter, below the government’s downgraded 6-7 percent full-year target range mainly due to public underspending.

In response, the economic team had rolled out “bold” spending catch-up plan, under which major infrastructure agencies such as the departments of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and of Transportation (DOTr) would speed up implementation of projects worth a total of P803 billion for the rest of the year.

The catch-up program was expected to jack up economic growth to over 6 percent for the entire 2019. (Editor: Jonathan P. Vicente)

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