Senator Juan Edgardo Angara on Monday gave assurances the Senate was committed to approve the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021 on time to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of services to the people, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
Angara, who heads the Committee on Finance, said the Senate would start working on what is considered the most important piece of legislation every year as soon as a copy of the National Expenditure Program was submitted by Malacañang for its consideration.
“We don’t want a repeat of 2019 when government had to operate on a reenacted 2018 national budget for five months, which led to serious delays in the implementation of key programs and projects and slower GDP (gross domestic product) growth,” Angara said.
Angara explained that delays in the approval of the national budget put a lot of pressure on the different government agencies to utilize available appropriations in a shorter period of time.
“We end up with inefficiencies in the utilization of funds and this is a disservice to the people who want to see that their taxes are being put to good use. This is especially important now that we are still grappling with a pandemic and we need to implement key programs to address its impacts,” Angara said.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) noted that the proposed budget for 2021 was 9.9 percent higher than this year’s budget and was equivalent to 21.8 percent of GDP.
The DBM said the 2021 budget aimed to sustain government efforts towards effectively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing government spending on improving the country's health care systems, ensuring food security, increasing investments in public and digital infrastructure, and helping communities cope and prevail during these trying times.
The 2021 budget has the theme “Reset, Rebound and Recover: Investing for resiliency and sustainability.”
“The key word here is resiliency. We need to demonstrate that our economy can remain robust in spite of the severe challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the proposed 2021 budget, we expect to see programs that will jumpstart economic activity while also strengthening our healthcare system so that we will be able to respond better in future crises,” Angara said.
“We want to see more support for our ailing industries and businesses such as tourism and the micro, small and medium enterprises, almost all of which were forced into dormancy during the government-imposed lockdowns,” he added.
Angara aired his full support to the goal of strengthening digital infrastructure in the country, which is in line with his advocacy of instituting a national digital transformation program to enable connectivity among different agencies of government, raising the skills of the workforce to prepare them for a digital world, and improve the overall efficiency in the delivery of services for the people.
To start with, Angara said that government must first fulfill its obligation to connect all areas of the country to the internet through investments in the necessary infrastructure.
“We have to accelerate our efforts to connect our communities no matter how remote they are because under the new normal, connectivity is of utmost importance,” he said.
“Our educational system depends on this now that distance learning is the norm. Our people expect this especially after the President vowed to make all government transactions contactless and online,” Angara said.