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Commentary
May 5, 2016

Budget as a Tool for Development or for Political Patronage and Vindictiveness PART 2

PART 2 of 2

Read PART 1 here.

ERRORS OF OMISSION

In addition to President Aquino III’s error of commission, he has committed major errors of omission, namely: first, failure to pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act; second, failure to pass the Fiscal Responsibility Act; third, the failure to pass Performance-Based Budgeting System which includes the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and the Organizational Performance Indicators Framework; and finally, failure to pass the proposal to limit the power of the president to impound appropriations.

ERRORS-OF-OMISSION

President Aquino promised to pass the FOI bill but be reneged on his promise. The passage of FOI law is a litmus test to Mr. Aquino’s solemn commitment to openness in government.

Government authorities argue that uploading tons of information on the web of concerned agencies is equivalent to being transparent. Sadly, they missed the point totally. Transparency is not about uploading tons of data on the web; rather, it is about citizens having access to the right information from the right agencies at the right time.

In order to institutionalize reforms in government budgeting, Congress needs to pass the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Performance-Based Budgeting System.

Another important budget reform is the proposal to limit the power of the President to impound appropriations. When they were senators, Mr. Aquino and Mr. Mar Roxas supported a version of a budget impoundment control bill. They see it as an important measure to limit the abuses of an imperious president. But when they were in a position to push for this vital budget reform, both opted to keep quiet.

Mr. Aquino changed his position on both the FOI bill and the Budget Impoundment Control bill. He is like most politicians: where they stand on key issues mostly depends on where they sit.

A complete list of future budget reforms are contained in my paper entitled “Recent Philippine budget reforms: separating the chaff from the grain, the whimsical from the real,” The Philippine Review of Economics, June 2014, pp. 60-85.

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