Congress determined to avert budget delay 

Published August 20, 2019, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

e-cartoon-aug-20-2019Determined to avoid the disastrous three-month delay in the approval of the National Budget for this year, the House  of  Representatives  Committee on Ways and Means  announced it will start deliberations  on next year’s budget  on  Thursday,  August  22.

On  that day the committee,  headed by Rep. Isidro  Ungab of Davao City, will open committee discussions to give every member enough time to raise  any concern  with the executive officials who drew up the proposed budget.

In the Senate, Sen. Juan  Edgardo  Angara,  chairman of the Senate  Committee on Finance,  assured  that the senators will work closely with  the House  to make sure everything  humanly possible  is  done  to pass the budget  in a responsible and  timely  manner.

Since the 2020 budget – for  P4.1 trillion – will need more funds  than last year, the House has also begun early to act on bills providing  for  these additional  funds  This early,  the House  Ways and Means Committee has already approved  two important tax bills – one  increasing  the tax rates on alcohol production and the other reducing the corporate income tax but “streamlines” the  tax incentives granted to foreign firms to induce  them to locate in the Philippines.

This latter tax bill is the  Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Reform Act (CITIRA),  which was  originally known as  TRAIN 2, for Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion  Act 2, then further renamed   TRABAHO, for  Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality  Opportunities.

Aside  from  raising  funds needed for the increased  2020 National Budget, CITIRA  seeks  to withdraw some  of the tax incentives originally granted to foreign firms. The Philippine Export  Zone Authority (PEZA) fears it will discourage foreign  firms from coming to the Philippines  but  the early start of deliberations  in the House  should  give everyone  the opportunity  to  have his say.

There is one other factor  that  must be taken into consideration in the  enactment of  bills, particularly the critical ones like the National Budget. This is the election in May, 2022, when the nation’s political leaders focus on the  all-important  task  of electing the nation’s next president.

Months before the election,   politicians  will  be deep into  this political exercise in varying  degrees of involvement.  Thus Secretary of Finance Carlos Dominguez  III  hopes  Congress will be able to finalize  action on all important economic bills, including the National Budget bill,    long before  election issues hinder swift  congressional action on them.

It  is  good that our leaders in Congress  are moving  this early on the  National Budget Bill, for we must avoid the three-month delay in the approval of  the  current 2019 budget that  set back so many projects and  has  kept us from achieving our  Gross Domestic Product  goal for this year.