Will record-high 2022 budget hasten recovery?

The proposed national budget for 2022 reflects the state of the economy and how the government plans to achieve recovery from the pandemic that would, in turn, enable the renewed pursuit of sustained growth.

President Duterte has proposed to Congress a budget of P5.042 trillion, an 11 percent increase over this year’s appropriations. Reckoned in terms of the country’s end-2020 gross domestic product of approximately P18.112 trillion, this means that government spending will contribute nearly 28 percent to the national economy.  Since government spending influences private sector spending, the national budget is a key driver of economic activity.

The top 10 departments in budget allocations are: the Department of Education with P773.6 billion budget; Department of Public Works and Highways, P686.1 billion; Department of the Interior and Local Government, P250.4 billion; Department of Health, P242 billion; Department of National Defense, P222 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development, P191.4 billion; Department of Transportation, P151.3 billion; Department of Agriculture, P103.5 billion; the Judiciary, P45 billion; and Department of Labor and Employment, P44.9 billion.

In terms of sectoral allocation, about 38.3 percent or P1.922 trillion of the budget will go to social services; 29.3 percent or P1.474 trillion to economic services; 17.2 percent or P862.7 billion to general public services; 10.8 percent or P541.3 billion to debt burden (including net lending); and 4.5 percent or P224.4 billion to defense.

As Congress is tasked with evaluating and approving the budget proposal submitted by the President, the people’s elected representatives are expected to assess whether the stated priorities would truly address the most important national needs.

The citizenry would want their representatives and senators to inquire: How will the increased expenditures for DepEd address the learning crisis spawned by the pandemic? Will the DSWD increase the amount of assistance to the poorest families?  Will there be timely ‘ayuda’ extended in case of severe lockdowns to ensure that families whose breadwinners are displaced from jobs would not go hungry? The spontaneous emergence of community pantries all over the country last year bared the glaring inadequacy of such vital social safety nets.

Around 75 percent of the DILG’s budget goes to the Philippine National Police that was expected to hire some 17,000 new police officers this year.  It also includes the anti-insurgency fund that has sparked debate on the proper focus of the government’s peacekeeping activities amid a continuing pandemic.

As the lead agency in the fight to contain the pandemic, the Department of Health’s budget is likely to be spotlighted anew, in the aftermath of the controversial procurement of allegedly overpriced facemasks.

Finally, another key feature is the increase of the national debt to a record-high P13.42 trillion as P2.47 billion in gross borrowings are projected, pushing the debt-to-GDP ratio to another all-time high of 60.8 percent.

All these imply that Filipino families are likely to feel the pinch of making ends meet --- a reality that our leaders must not overlook as they grapple with providing the means for enabling our people to survive, and hopefully to thrive, even under crisis conditions.