Thursday, November 11, 2010

Timely 2011 reform budget enactment clearer -- Budget Secretary Butch Abad

MANILA, Nov. 10 (PNA)--Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio Abad on Wednesday said that prospects for the timely enactment of the proposed P1.645-trillion Reform Budget for 2011 are clearer after the House of Representatives has passed it on third reading on Tuesday.

He also lauded the House of Representatives led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, in voting 175 vs. 21 in favor of the proposed spending measure last night, for keeping the increased investments in social services, as well as special provisions promoting transparency and accountability intact.

“We’re happy that the House passed the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on its first day after returning from the break. We’re also happy that the House kept the GAB to be substantially in line with the social investment and reform thrust of the Aquino Administration,” Abad also said.

“It is important to us that the national budget is passed on time, to enable the government to implement programs and projects in a timely manner. Especially in infrastructure projects, a lot of wastage happens if project implementation is done in bad time and bad weather,” he added.

The economic manager said the GAB passed by the House retains the substantial investments in social services that the Aquino administration had planned for 2011. In particular, the expanded conditional cash transfer (CCT) program worth P21 billion will allow the Aquino government to provide direct and substantial support to 2.3 million indigent households.

He is also glad that together with the CCT, the House retained significant funding for a complete package of social services particularly in education and healthcare.

Under the proposed 2011 spending plan, the budget for Department of Education increased by P32.3 billion—-the largest in over a decade—to significantly address chronic resource gaps.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health’s budget for the construction and upgrading of rural health facilities doubled to P7.1 billion, while the immunization program’s funding also increased by almost 300% to P2.5 billion.

“But more than the amounts appropriated, we’re happy that the House supported the special provisions in the budget to promote transparency, accountability and good governance,” he said.

Such include the mandatory online publication of budget and project implementation details, and provisions that make the release of lump-sum funds (e.g. for irrigation and farm-to-market roads) contingent on master plans crafted by the implementing agencies.

With the House’s passage of the GAB right on schedule, Abad said he looks forward to the Senate doing the same, as has been assured by Senate Finance Committee chair Senator Franklin Drilon.

If passed by the Senate on time, the Bicameral Conference Committee can convene early in December. As originally scheduled, both Houses are set to approve the harmonized version of the budget by December 16. 

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