Former National Treasurer Tackles Country’s 2016 Budget in Integrative Lecture

Former National Treasurer Tackles Country’s 2016 Budget in Integrative Lecture

“Instead of crazing over Aldub and what movies to watch, why don’t you take a look at the importance and impact of the national budget in your life as students?”

This was a challenge that kept students in their seats. A challenge posed by former National Treasurer Prof. Leonor M. Briones during her lecture on the “2016 National Budget: Its Macroeconomic Context and the Social Development Situation”, held October 5 at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium.

Concretizing the concept of the national budget to an audience composed of students from Silliman and other schools in Dumaguete, Professor Briones compared the national budget to the daily allowances of the students. She said what students do with their allowances is a small-scale replica of how the national budget is being appropriated and allocated.

Professor Briones reflected on the current status of the country in terms of challenges that seem to hinder the pursuit for progress and development.

“The national budget is the most powerful instrument of the government in responding to these problems,” she stated. The national budget can maximize health and education services, provide more opportunities to ameliorate employment, and stabilize the country’s economy.

Presenting the data obtained from National Economic Development Authority and the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinos, she said that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Growth projection for 2016 of 7.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent is highly improbable to attain, given the current GDP Growth rating of 5.3% as of the first semester of 2015.

“Given the current statistics, we can see that agriculture is a neglected sector in the country,” she stressed. Despite the fact that the country is generally considered agricultural, the agriculture sector contributed the least amount in terms of the country’s average growth for the last decade.

According to Professor Briones, this observable lack of support and assistance to agriculture as a highly potential sector for economic progress should pose an obvious implication to the allocation of the 2016 national budget.

“The 2016 budget should address the gaps and distributional issues of the GDP to ensure that economic growth is enjoyed by all,” she explained. “If we want the national budget to tackle problems of poverty, hunger, and unemployment, it has to focus on the sectors where the poorest are and where unemployment is highest,” she added.

Professor Briones also strongly stated the fact that contrary to what the President has stated in his State of the National Address, the country’s poverty rate has increased for the past few years.

“The Visayas and Mindanao region still have the highest cases of poverty in the country,” she said. With Negros Oriental being one of the four provinces in Visayas with the most dramatic rise in poverty levels, Professor Briones questioned the unequal and imbalanced allocation and appropriation of the budget to Visayas and Mindanao over Luzon, which receives an allocation of more than half of the entire budget.

Currently Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Silliman University, Professor Briones likened the 2016 national budget to a big box with a lot of small boxes inside. Of the P3 trillion expenditure program, only 27.6 per cent, equivalent to P829.861 billion, is to subjected to a detailed examination by Congress.

“Now, who do you think has the power of the purse, the executive or the legislative?” she asked the audience.

Four were invited to serve as reactors during the lecture of Professor Briones: Dumaguete City Administrator Dr. William Ablong, College of Business Administration Dean Dr. Gloria G. Futalan, School of Public Affairs and Governance Dean Atty. Tabitha E. Tinagan and Student Government president Kirk Philip Emperado.

According to Dr. Ablong, he was saddened yet challenged upon knowing how the budget failed to function as a powerful tool for poverty reduction. He stressed that the national situation is a collection of local situations. Therefore, as an administrator, he himself saw first-hand how problems that seem to worsen the status of the society remain unaddressed over the years.

For Dr. Futalan, it boiled down to the competence of the legislators coming from the Visayas and Mindanao, especially that these are the regions that received the lowest share of the national budget. She also commented on the debt service of the country and how it is unconstitutional as it exceeds the budget allocation for education – what by law should ideally receive the biggest share in the budget.

Dr. Tabitha Tinagan, on the other hand, lamented the failure of government to give sufficient support to the country’s agricultural sector. She discussed the flaw in government’s budget distribution for agriculture, and also questioned why the country continues to resort to borrowing.

The youngest among the reactors, Kirk turned to the youth. He challenged them youth to be more proactive in issues of public significance, such as the national budget. He emphasized the impact of youth involvement and participation in creative change, and connected his thoughts to the country’s preparations for the full implementation of the K+12 education reform in 2016.