Press Release
August 27, 2019

Find ways to end poor budget planning in govt agencies, Villanueva tells economic cluster at budget briefing

It's about time the government move decisively to manage the high rate of budget underutilization, an indicator of inefficiency, according to Senator Joel Villanueva.

At Thursday's first meeting of the Development Budget Coordinating Council with the Senate Committee on Finance, Villanueva quizzed members of the Cabinet economic cluster presenting the proposed 2020 national budget on whether the government has finally found a pragmatic way to address the perennial problem of underutilization.

"Ika nga po ng isang kasabihan, ang pera na nakatago lang sa baul, aanayin lang at mabubulok. Money that we allocate for projects and programs every year should be disbursed within a reasonable period of time," said Villanueva, vice chair of the Senate finance committee, in a statement on Friday. "We are always hard pressed to generate revenues to fund the government's operations and its programs, activities and projects, only to find out later that the government is not able to use them anyway, because of cumbersome process and indecisiveness of some public officials."

"We've been in government for nearly two decades and yet, it's the same sob story of underutilized funds that we see year after year during budget season. It's disappointing to see our economic managers seemingly grasping for straws in mustering an answer to our simple query," he continued. "Any way you look at this problem, the last thing you want to see is a pile of money doing nothing at the treasury."

At the committee hearing, Villanueva asked the economic team present, led by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia and newly-appointed Acting Budget Secretary Wendell Avisado, whether all the government's 75 key infrastructure projects are "implementation ready," a factor that the latter pointed out as one of the factors for the underutilization of funds.

Unfortunately, both leaders presented a different answer: while Pernia answered affirmatively, Avisado clarified that only 22 of the 75 key projects are "implementation ready."

The conflicting answers prompted Villanueva to ask whether the National Economic Development Authority and the Department of Budget and Management had the same understanding of the term "implementation ready."

"To our mind, our economic team should improve its coordination among themselves to address our problems, instead of creating new ones and causing more confusion," Villanueva said.

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