Low fiscal gap achieved thru cuts in services — critic

Published by rudy Date posted on May 12, 2011

In its bid to drastically cut down the budget deficit as part of efforts to project an image it is managing the country’s financial deficit successfully, the Aquino administration has been depriving the Filipinos of essential basic services, House Minority Leader Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said yesterday.

A projected P112 billion budget deficit for the first quarter was reduced to a mere P26 billion on the first quarter mainly through underspending and a P9 billion windfall on the value added tax on oil products after crude oil prices surged to above $100 per barrel as a result of the continuing political turmoil among a number of countries in the Middle East.

Lagman said the huge reduction in the budget shortfall was mainly achieved through government’s refusal to spend money on approved projects as provided for in the 2011 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Already 10 months into office, President Aquino, Lagman said, has yet produce substantive results of his administration of the country’s affairs.

“Three hundred days, or 10 months into office, and he still has nothing to show in terms of any coherent agenda to improve the nation and the economy,” Lagman said.

“The budget got an early approval from Congress but nothing has been done yet in terms of social programs or infrastructure works,” the Albay solon noted.

The dry season had gone, it is now the wet season, but there are no new road, building, bridge or port projects reported in the first quarter, the probable reason for the low deficit figure, according to Lagman.

Lagman added the laid-back and complacent attitude with which Aquino “attends to his immense duties betrays his lack of concern for the people he has sworn to serve.”

“May we remind President Aquino, the presidency cannot be discharged or presided as mere afterthought, neither could it succeed by alibis and faultfinding,” he said.

“Perhaps, it sounds good that our fiscal situation improved but, in reality, no pump-priming activity has been done by our government which could have bolstered our economy,” he added.

In an interview after the press briefing, Lagman said Aquino might be committing a crime against the people by depriving them of the basic services.

“This whole thing about reducing the budget deficit is nothing but a window dressing. It’s only artificial. And this is being done at the expense of the people who are being deprived of the basic services due them,” Lagman said.

“The problem is here is that when the time comes they decide to start spending, with the continuing rise of price of oil and other commodities, the original budgetary allocation for a specific project might no longer suffice for the project cost. In that case, the budgetary deficit can no longer be manageable,” Lagman averred.

Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas IV readily agreed with Lagman saying up to now, they have yet to receive special allotment release orders (SAROs) for their projects funded by their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

“Up to now, wala pa ang PDAF namin,” Cagas lamented. “Binabagyo na kami, humihingi na ng mga proyekto ang aming mga constituents, wala kaming mai-report.”

At this juncture, Lagman asked Cagas what vote did he cast for the impeachment, to which the Davao solon replied he voted against.

“That explains it,” Lagman retorted.

During the House voting for the impeachment case against resigned Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas “Merci” Gutierrez, a text message was allegedly circulated among House members promising an additional P20-million pork barrel for those who would vote in the affirmative. While this was denied vehemently by the administration, rumors refused to die down. –Charlie V. Manalo, Daily Tribune

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