Solon urges slash in non-essential expenses

A HOUSE leader is calling for more and deeper cuts in the budget, particularly non-essential expenses.

Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts and Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor is proposing at least a 30 percent budget cut in this year’s P4.1 trillion national budget.

The purpose, according to Defensor, is to raise enough funds for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response measures and the social amelioration program (SAP).

“I am proposing a reduction of at least 30 percent in non-essential expenses of the government. Some of these expenditures we can altogether forego and use the money to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and help the poor and other affected sectors,” Defensor said.

Defensor earlier called for a 20-percent cut in such expenses, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) opted to cut such items only by 10 percent.

The DBM also slashed “programmed appropriations” by 35 percent.

Defensor said non-essential expenditures are part of the “maintenance and other operating expenses” or MOOE, for which P1.6 trillion is allocated in the 2020 budget.

“If the DBM can effect an across-the-board reduction of 30 percent, we can easily generate P480 billion for COVID-19 measures and SAP financial assistance to the poor,” he stressed.

He conceded that some MOOE items could not be slashed by 30 percent, but others could be cut substantially, while some could be scrapped.

Among the non-essential MOOE items where substantial reductions could be made are travel, and their corresponding appropriations, P19.4 billion; training and scholarship, P32.9 billion; supplies and materials, P108.3 billion; and representation, or dining out and entertainment by officials and their guests, P5.2 billion.

Others that could be reduced considerably are communication, P10.7 billion; hiring of consultants, P29 billion; advertising, P3 billion; subscription, P4.1 billion; and donations, P41.8 billion; printing and publication, P1.9 billion; and membership dues and contributions to organizations, P2.4 billion.

“Why should the government spend almost P42 billion for donations when frontline health workers are still begging for personal protective equipment (PPE) items from private donors until now, five months after the coronavirus outbreak hit the country?" Defensor asked.

He said the government could also forego the purchase of new vehicles, for which there is P4.1 billion in the budget, construction of more buildings (P99 billion), procurement of new furniture and fixtures (P603 million), and the acquisition of additional machinery and equipment, P67.9 billion.