House Appropriations Committee Chair Karlo Nograles today said that his panel would consider the country’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) in crafting the country’s 2018 national expenditure program.
Nograles said that a country’s GNH is a key instrument in determining the priority programs that should be pursued by the government and the appropriations committee would certainly adopt this as one of the major considerations as they scrutinize Malacanang’s proposed P3.767 Trillion national budget.
” We should fund programs to make our people happy. Our national programs should be designed to ensure that our people are generally happy with their way of life,” Nograles said.
To do this, Nograles underlined the vitality of continuity, viability and synchronicity of government programs to meet its medium and long-term inclusive socio-economic development goals in line with the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.
“We must make sure that every centavo of taxes collected from the people will benefit the people, especially the poor and long neglected areas of the country,” Chairman Nograles stressed during the initial committee consideration of President Rodrigo Duterte’s proposed 2018 P3.767-trillion national expenditure program.
On the macro basis, Nograles said that the proposed General Appropriations Law is consistent with the constitutional mandate allotting the largest funding figure for education.
Next to education is infrastructure development, highlighted by the President’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program that will not only spur rural development but also create jobs in long-neglected countryside areas, Nograles said.
The initial Committee hearing at the House of Representatives saw the top government economic managers, led by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno laying down the government budgetary blueprint of a budget that “reforms and transforms.”
Sec. Diokno stressed that the government’s financial program for 2018 is focused on “efficient and effective delivery of all government services” designed to achieve inclusive national growth.
Other economic managers who gave their respective agency’s vital role in the crafting of the proposed spending law were Sec. Ernesto M. Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Sec. of Finance Carlos Dominguez, Bangko Central ng Pilipinas Gov. Nestor Jose Jorge Corpuz, and BSP Deputy Governor Diwa C. Gunigundo, among others.
However Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate today said that the supposed Gross National Happiness Index that the National Economic Development Agency (NEDA) is introducing as a new development indicator would be hard put to achieve with the government’s “anti-poor tax reform package that would spike the prices of basic services and commodities and to affect majority of our poor people.”
“Hindi magiging happy ang mahihirap sa tax reform package dahil ang sigurado lang dito ay MAGMAMAHALAN ang lahat — ng mga batayang bilihin dahil sa dagdag na buwis,” said the progressive solon as he interpellated the neoliberal economic managers of the administration.”
“Ni hindi pa nga naisasabatas ang tax reform package ay isinama na nila ito sa kompyutasyon ng pagkukunan ng panggastos samantalang ipinagbabawal ito,” ended Rep.Zarate.
Meanwhile Zarate and ACT Teachers party list rep. Antonio Tinio called out economic managers for including as source of revenue of the proposed 2018 national budget the projected revenues from the comprehensive tax reform program that has yet to be approved.
The House approved the TRAIN on third and final reading but remains pending at the committee level at the Senate.
Zarate, points out that revenue assumptions based on a tax measure that is not final may jeopardize government programs. Zarate notes that If the bill is not passed, the government would be orced to borrow money to fund the programs.
Finance Undersecretary Karl Chua told lawmakers that the non-passage of the TRAIN bill would deprive funds for some P133 billion worth of projects in the 2018 budget.
“Kung gusto natin isulong itong mga projects na ito, tayo ay uutang,” Chua said.
Tinio said, “It could be prospective collection if there is a law, kung wala eh di drawing lan iyon.”
“If you want to include that in the budget, then you should put it in the unprogrammed fund,” Tinio added.