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Senate panel hears proposal to tap 2024 payables

SENATORS explored the possibility of “frontloading” a P715-billion allocation in the proposed 2023 budget which is intended to fund obligations due in 2024.

Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel made the inquiry of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) at a Senate finance committee hearing.

The budget scrutiny comes as the National Government (NG) scrambles to fund its obligations after taking on record debt to fund the economic recovery and as local governments expand their cut of NG revenue.

Congress is examining the proposed P5.268-trillion budget for 2023.

“The P715 billion stated in the circular is the estimated obligations that we expect not to be paid within the year, but instead are accounts payable the following year because some projects will not be completed within the year so we cannot disburse or pay for them on that year,” Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman replied.

Ms. Hontiveros had asked whether the amount can be reallocated by issuing a Multi-Year Contracting Authority (MYCA), a DBM certification of the availability of funds to cover the full contract cost of multiyear projects.

Resorting to a MYCA will allow the government to “frontload appropriations for faster-moving projects that the departments deem urgent,” she said.

“If we possess the information on what the slow-moving projects types were in recent years, could Congress add to the list of projects covered by MYCAs, so that fiscal space can be created for fast moving projects.”

Ms. Pangandaman said MYCA items in agency budget proposals are still subject to the agencies’ absorption capacity — “whether they can disburse the funds even (with) MYCA.”

“This is part of our budget management considering that we have limited fiscal space in our budget,” she added.

Separately, Sen. Joseph Victor G. Ejercito also flagged the budget increase for the Department of Transportation (DoTr) despite its low disbursement rate last year.

“DoTr posted a disbursement rate of only 41.5% in 2021. The low disbursement rate indicates delay and non-completion of big-ticket items,” Mr. Ejercito said.

The proposed 2023 budget for the DoTr stood at P167.121 billion, which is a 122.1% increase from its P75.248-billion allocation this year.

“With the new leadership, we expect that they will move much faster than the previous years,” Ms. Pangandaman said, explaining the higher allocation.

“In addition to the P100+ billion appropriated to DoTr, there’s another P300+ billion in the unprogrammed (funds). So as soon as they can implement, we will give them money,” Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno added.

The debt-to-gross domestic product ratio rose to 62.1% in the second quarter from 39.6% in 2019, reflecting the need to borrow in responding to the pandemic.

The National Government’s outstanding debt is expected to top P13.43 trillion by the end of the year. At the end of July, the debt stood at P12.89 trillion.

Despite the need for more sources of revenue to narrow the budget deficit, Mr. Diokno said that he is willing to forego revenue from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).

“If you ask my personal opinion on this, let’s discontinue the POGOs because of the social costs,” he said.

“In fact, the total revenue for 2021 is down to P3.9 billion. At its peak, it was P7.2 billion in 2020… China has discontinued, even Cambodia… it also has a reputational risk.” — Diego Gabriel C. Robles

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