SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: 2012 budget not HD-friendly

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/04 November) – Yesterday, I cited the Philippines’ ranking in the 2011 Human Development Report of the United Nations. I forgot to mention that the report was released on Wednesday, November 2, and that the country’s ranking of 112th was actually 15 notches lower than its previous ranking, which was 97th.

A total of 169 countries were evaluated for the 2010 report and 187 for this year’s report. Given the changes in the number of countries that were ranked and in the methods used, it may be misleading to offer a comparison of the results in absolute terms. Yet, one thing stands out in the two reports: the Philippines is at the medium human development category.

Will things get better? Will the country’s standing improve by the time the next report is out? I’d like to make use of the 2012 national budget as basis of our forecast that quality of life for the majority in this country has slim prospects of progressing. After all, the budget is the ultimate proof of a government’s priorities and actual commitment to the wellbeing of its people.

For next year, the House approved last month a P1.816-trillion budget. If the Senate concurs with the House version of the General Appropriations Act, here’s how government spending next year will be like:

The Department of Education will get the biggest allocation, P238.8 billion or 13.14 percent of the total budget, followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways with P125.5 billion or 6.91 percent, the Department of National Defense with P107.9 billion or 5.94 percent, and the Department of Interior and Local Government with P101.4 billion or 5.58 percent.

The Department of Agriculture only gets P54.1 billion or roughly 3 percent of the overall budget.

But the sad tale doesn’t end with the comparatively measly appropriation for the DA. As has been the case since the martial law years, the debt servicing continues to enjoy the biggest share with P356.1 billion or roughly 20 percent of the budget.

Moreover, government is keen on pursuing the conditional cash transfer program with an allocation of P39.5 billion. This amount is roughly 75 percent of the DA’s budget. Unfortunately, nothing good can come out of this program. It will not provide long-term solutions to poverty and will only deepen the poor’s sense of helplessness and dependency.

As for education, the fact that the DepEd gets the biggest share (next to the debt servicing, of course) is just half of the picture. Education in general is going to suffer with the cuts in subsidies for state colleges and universities.

The Department of Health, on the other hand, is not among the recipients of the biggest funding. Being a devolved function, the provision of health services will have to depend largely on the discretion of the local government units. (Next: The Philippines’ human development situation in the regional context)

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])