DOF frowns at DSWD's unspent P10B allocation to help the poor

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said on Wednesday that he was also surprised with the Department of Social Welfare and Development's (DSWD) decision to save some P10 billion from its allocation for assisting poor households.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

"I was quite surprised myself and we will certainly take it up with the Budget Secretary and the DBCC (Development Budget Coordination Committee). Because under the circumstances, I'll emphasize to them that we cannot save our way to prosperity. We have to spend our way to prosperity," Dominguez said during the Senate Committee on Finance's deliberation of the P18.28-billion proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Finance (DOF).

The matter was brought up by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon when Dominguez was explaining the Duterte administration's policy to continue with its budget spending to help the country recover from the recessionary impacts of COVID-19 pandemic.

He also underscored the need to boost consumer confidence to encourage spending and further boost economic growth.

"We noticed, however, in yesterday's hearing on the DSWD , the Secretary of DSWD said they have not spent P10 billion out of what was given to them and this certainly, your policy, to which I agree on, that to stimulate the economy, we must spend money particularly government, to, you know the bounds that we have set," Drilon said.

While Dominguez admitted that the P10 billion not spent by the DSWD was "of course a very large amount," he noted that it was only four percent of the some P250 billion worth of funds released for the implementation of the social amelioration program (SAP).

"On a macro basis, I agree with you, but if you talk about the millions of families who were expecting this, then you will appreciate that they will not really -- they will just look at it from their own shortcomings, and confidence is not there when you see the multitudes of poor people who were not benefitted," Drilon pointed out.

"If they have no money in their pockets because they (DSWD) did not release the P10 billion, you know, you cannot build the confidence," he added.

"Absolutely, that's why we would take it up right away with the DBCC on what's holding up this spending," Dominguez agreed.

During the Senate's hearing on their agency's proposed 2021 budget on Tuesday, the DSWD said it withheld the release of P10 billion after it reduced to 14 million the number of beneficiaries for the second round of subsidies to low-income households under the SAP as ordered by President Duterte.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act stated that 18 million low-income households shall receive the two tranches of P5,000 to P8,000 cash grants.