AN opposition House leader yesterday said the incoming 18th Congress must pass the national budget for next year without delay as he warned against a repeat of the “costly” 2019 budget crisis.
“When the government sneezes, the economy catches a cold,” said House Deputy Minority Leader and reelected Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr.
“When the biggest consumer – the national government – is unable to spend dynamically due to a deferred budget, the entire economy suffers,” said Campos.
The next Congress, if it wanted to, could pass the 2020 budget by the last week of November or the first week of December, according to Campos.
“Budget delays are extremely harmful. We had that foul episode in Makati, wherein obstructionist city councilors nastily held hostage and then sabotaged the passage of this year’s local budget,” said Campos.
“Makati residents were deprived of improved public services, social benefits and development projects,” said Campos.
Malacañang is expected to submit to Congress the proposed General Appropriations Act for 2020 within 30 days from the opening of the regular session on July 22.
President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte, however, has made it a habit to submit the budget immediately upon the opening of the regular session of Congress – the same day that he delivers the State of the Nation Address (SoNA).
The four-month congressional holdup in the passage of the 2019 budget contributed in a big way to the slower-than-expected economic growth in the first quarter.
The delay was due to bicameral bickering over controversial pork barrel allocations.
The President signed into law the P3.7-trillion budget for this year only last April 15.
The first-quarter Gross Domestic Product expanded by 5.6 percent year-on-year, below the widely expected 6.0 percent, largely owing to the slower increase in public sector spending.
Government spending rose by only 7.4 percent in the first quarter this year, down from the 13.6 percent growth in the first quarter of 2018, on account of the stalled budget.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Transportation (DoTr) had meant to front-load several projects in the first quarter, ahead of the 45-day or March 29 to May 12 ban on fund releases due to the May 13 elections.
“But the front-loading of these projects was clearly set back, as the DPWH and the DoTr waited for the budget to be passed,” Campos pointed out.
The budget crisis also delayed the payout of the last installment of the salary increase for 1.3 million government employees, which “to some degree dampened consumer spending,” according to Campos.