President Aquino to present P2.268-T budget to Congress
MANILA, Philippines—The government is proposing to increase next year’s budget by 13 percent in order to fuel faster economic growth in 2014 and carry out its aims of spending more on infrastructure and boosting a cash doleout program for the poorest households as it seeks to spread the benefits of economic growth.
President Aquino was reported to be putting the finishing touches on Thursday to the proposed P2.268-trillion budget for 2014, which is P266 billion more than the current P2.002 trillion budget.
After holding Cabinet-level meetings in Malacañang for three days, Mr. Aquino approved late Wednesday the budget prepared by budget officials.
The proposed budget, which officials claimed would not require raising taxes, will be submitted to Congress after the President delivers his state of the nation address (Sona) on July 22.
In a speech before visiting tourism directors, ambassadors and consuls general from Canada and the United States, Mr. Aquino explained his hands-on approach to formulating the budget, the most important piece of legislation passed annually by the legislature.
“We are laying out the priorities for next year, and even beyond. Every line must be thoroughly scrutinized before the entire document is submitted to Congress, and so finalizing the budget, as you can imagine, is a somewhat stressful task,” he said.
He described the proposed 2014 budget as “realistic” in the face of the 6.8 percent growth in 2012, noting that in the first quarter of 2013 alone, “we have recorded the fastest growth rate in East and Southeast Asia at 7.8 percent.”
The Philippines was the fastest growing economy in Asia in the first quarter, and the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday full-year growth would likely hit the top end of this year’s 6 to 7 percent target on the back of robust domestic consumption.
“This success will only make our administration work harder. We know full well the challenges that remain. We must make certain that this growth becomes even more inclusive—that the economic benefits do not merely trickle down to our people, but that every Filipino is able to ride the rising tide of progress,” he said.
By the time Mr. Aquino steps down from office in 2016, he aims to create millions of jobs and nearly halve a poverty rate that was running close to 28 percent in the first half of 2012.
Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said the thrust of the 2014 budget would be “inclusive growth,” through “enhancing social protections and creating opportunities for employment by focusing on job generating sectors like manufacturing, tourism, infrastructure, and agriculture, among others.”
By “social protections,” Carandang was referring to government spending for the conditional cash transfer program, health care, education and housing.
Palace mouthpieces—presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, his deputy Abigail Valte and Carandang—focused on the President’s supposed “hands-on” approach to budgetary planning.
“The President takes time and effort to go over the details of the budget because he wants to make sure that taxpayers’ money is being spent properly and efficiently,” said Carandang.
Mr. Aquino’s “scrutiny and attention” to budgetary allocations would allow the government to increase spending without having to raise taxes, he said.
“The budget will be funded by a combination of internally generated revenues and debt, as it always is,” he said.
“The President asked very detailed and specific questions about the proposals of each and every department,” said Valte, necessitating two budget presentations.
Lacierda said the President and the administration would make sure that “no one is left behind.”
“Rising tide lifts all boats—that’s our plan,” he said.
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