Record surplus at expense of economy, say lawmakers

Published by rudy Date posted on May 26, 2011

The supposed P26-billion budget surplus for the first quarter is nothing to brag about as it took away opportunities for the government to pump-prime the country’s economy and create more jobs for the people, members of the minority bloc in the House of Representatives yesterday said.

At a press briefing, Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said the Aquino administration should be made to understand that in any “pragmatic” economy, the more the government spends, the more it creates job opportunities and stimulates the economy.”

“The more you spend, the more opportunity for work, employment and that’s principle of business. If you withhold your spending, it will result in severe unemployment,” Suarez said, noting that the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey revealed that the number of unemployed had risen by 2 million Filipinos since November last year.

The other day, Malacañang announced it had posted a P26-billion budget savings for the first quarter of the year, the biggest budget surplus recorded in the past 25 years which it attributed to increased tax collections and “eliminating wasteful spending.”

The Palace hailed the “strong” fiscal performance as a result of an 18.22 percent increase in revenue collections for the first four months to P461.4 billion, while the expenditures for the same period decreased by 11.6 percent to P461.35 billion.

“In a study we made during the last Congress, we found out that 31 percent of the business activities in the country is government-related,” the Quezon solon said. “So, if you withhold government spending, it would have an adverse effect on the employment rate.”

For his part, House Minority Leader Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that the Palace-declared budget surplus was nothing but window-dressing attributed to the government’s underspending.

Lagman, who used to chair the committee on appropriations, stressed the budget savings due to underspending is “artificial” and “contrived” because there is a need for the government to spend to pump-prime the economy and create jobs.

“The President put a condom on the (P1.645 trillion) national budget (for 2011),” said Lagman, who is the author of the Reproductive Health bill. “That virgin budget should be devirginized.”

“I think we are just window dressing the cash position of the government. And augmentation of savings at expense of pump-priming economy and releasing what should be properly disbursed in favor of government agencies and members of Congress who would represent various constituencies, senators which have national constituencies and party-list reps and members of the House. We should not sacrifice our constituents and government agencies at the altar of savings,” Lagman said.

Lawmakers have also fallen victims to the government’s underspending as the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Finance (DoF) are withholding the release of their priority development assistance funds (PDAF).

According to some quarters however, the lawmakers’ PDAFs are deliberately being withheld as part of grand scheme designed at ousting House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte. The plot was allegedly hatched by incoming presidential chief of staff, Mar Roxas.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD spokesman Raul Lambino also chastised President Aquino for blowing away the gains of the past administrations resulting in higher prices of commodities and unemployment rate.

“Former President Gloria Arroyo kept the economy growing every quarter even through the global recession of 2009. Before her, the other chairman emeritus of Lakas, former President Fidel V. Ramos, unleashed the power of the free market and spurred remarkable growth through the Asian financial crisis of 1997,” Lambino noted.

“But under President Aquino, unemployment has risen by nearly five points even though the global economy is already recovering.”

This, according to Lambino, is on top of inflation that is much higher than what economists believe is normal with economic growth.

“PNoy is showing a talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” Lambino said. –Charlie V. Manalo, Daily Tribune

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