By Hannah Torregoza
Congress should exhaust all means to ensure that the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 would be approved on time, Senate finance committee chief Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara urged on Wednesday.
Angara said both the Senate and House of Representatives should avoid a repeat of a reenacted budget as the country cannot afford another delay in its approval.
But he said there is reason to be optimistic that the P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 will be passed on time since House leaders have committed to approve the budget measure before October 5, 2019.
“We will be observing the practice of holding parallel hearings so that when the House-approved GAB (general appropriations bill) will arrive here in October or first week of November we are done with the exhaustive review of the agency budgets at the committee level,” Angara said.
“The fighting target is to have it signed on or before December 15. What is important is that the nation will greet the new year with a new national budget,” he said.
Angara noted that the country suffered after the government was forced to operate on a reenacted budget for the first four months of the year when the approval of the P3.7-trillion national budget for 2019 was delayed.
The senator said the four-month delay in the enactment of the budget had an adverse impact, not only on the economy as a whole, but on the delivery of services to the people.
As a consequence, there were fewer job opportunities available and key infrastructure projects, both new and ongoing, faced delays in their implementation due to lack of funding.
“I have always taken the position that a reenacted budget must be avoided like the plague,” Angara said.
The country’s economic growth also took a huge hit, with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) adjusting the full-year gross domestic product target from 7 to 8 percent to 6.1 to 6.3 percent, the senator stressed.
According to Angara, he shares President Duterte’s desire to cut bureaucratic red tape “because the people deserve the best service possible from its government.”
“We will place particular focus on getting agencies to spend their budgets efficiently and judiciously. We should avoid underspending, which has been a problem of several agencies since the previous administration,” he said.
“What is important here is not just passing the budget on time but crafting a budget that is in synch with what the people want and what national development requires. There is a deadline to be met but most important are the aspirations to be satisfied,” he emphasized.