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Legality, And Morality, In Public Spending

July 28, 2010

So long as it’s legal, never mind if it’s immoral.
Is this what Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos seems to be saying with his ‘clarification’ about how the Arroo regime spent the P 1.54 trillion budget for 2010, leaiving only some 100-B.
This is because, according to Relampagos, P313 is “automatically appropriated.”
We have to frontload the releases on the first semester of the year especially for infrastructure projects. So there’s nothing illegal because everything is within the authority granted by Congress to the executive branch to spend for the year |(in reference to how the Arroyo government spent the P1,54-B budget this first half of the year). The government has not yet exceeded this ceiling set by Congress although the past administration had already released P949.2 billion of the amount as of June 30.
What about the pork barrel?
Not to worry our dear members of the 15th Congress.
Especially set aside is P62 billion for congressional initiative and the rest for salaries and operating expenses.
So what’s really left?
The new dispensation has P100 billion “that the President may declare as “savings” and can be used to augment the priority programs of the government, all within appropriation,” Relampagos ‘assures’.
Noong sinabi na walang anomalous, meaning all the releases were within the authorization made by Congress of 1.54 trillion. We didn’t exceed that. There’s no legal problem involved sa releases fund (When I said that there’s nothing annomalous…), I mean all the DBM.
He further tells us that there’s only “an imbalance of the pattern of spending of the government.”
Relampagos does not deny that from January to June this year, the government exceeded the budget deficit ceiling by P51 billion “because one, there was revenue shortfall of P23 billion, and two, the government overspent by P27 billion.”

“With a P23 billion tax collection shortfall, then prudence dictates that the government should have calibrated its spending,” he reasons.
Like a true bureaucrat, Relampagos says:
The more important thing there is whether it was justified given the fiscal situation at that time you have to calibrate your releases against the fiscal situation. I mean if revenues are not forthcoming and we can’t support the allotment that you issued, then you should not issue faster spending, authorization than the inflow of revenue.
Now here’s the bind we are in:
… if you look at our fiscal situation, it’s inappropriate or proper at this time to seek for supplemental budget from Congress. It will just worsen the fiscal situation unless the new supplemental bill, appropriation bill is supported by new revenue sources. That’s deficit neutral. Otherwise it’s not advisable to ask for supplemental budget this year.

Simply put, the Aquino administration has to scrimp these remaining months of 201o.
Methinks our ‘kind-hearted’ lawmakers must now find it in themselves to help Malacananng to fairly, prudently and creatively re-allocate their pork while heading the President’s ‘no tongpats’ edict.
This appeal is particularly addressed to Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Senate President Juan Pone Enrile and Speaker Sonny Belmonte
Otherwise, les miserables, we truly are.

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