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The chairman of the House committee on public accounts is calling for “deeper cuts” in this year’s P4.1-trillion national budget to raise funds for Covid-19 response measures and the social amelioration program (SAP).

“I am proposing a reduction of at least 30 percent in non-essential expenses of the government. Some of these expenditures we can altogether forego and use the money to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and help the poor and other affected sectors,” Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said on Thursday.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has opted to cut such items only by 10 percent and slashed “programmed appropriations” by 35 percent.

Defensor said non-essential expenditures are part of the “maintenance and other operating expenses” or MOOE, for which P1.6 trillion is allocated in the 2020 budget.

“If the DBM can effect an across-the-board reduction of 30 percent, we can easily generate P480 billion for Covid-19 measures and SAP financial assistance to the poor,” he said.

He conceded that some MOOE items could not be slashed by 30 percent, but others could be cut substantially, while some could be scrapped.

He said among the non-essential MOOE items where substantial reductions could be taken are travel, and their corresponding appropriations are travel, P19.4 billion; training and scholarship, P32.9 billion; supplies and materials, P108.3 billion; and representation, or dining out and entertainment by officials and their guests, P5.2 billion.

Others that could be reduced considerably are communication, P10.7 billion; hiring of consultants, P29 billion; advertising, P3 billion; subscription, P4.1 billion; and donations, P41.8 billion; printing and publication, P1.9 billion; and membership dues and contributions to organizations, P2.4 billion, Defensor said.

He said there are a lot of budgeted expenses the government could clearly do away with during this time of pandemic.

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