By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, January 27, 2023; Philippine News Agency

MANILA – The development of the country’s infrastructure sector and the planned digital transformation are among the Marcos administration’s priorities in crafting the proposed national budget for 2024, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said on Friday.

During the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Budget Forum at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City, Pangandaman said next year’s budget would incorporate the government’s priorities and policy directions to achieve “economic and social transformation for a prosperous, inclusive, and resilient society.”

She said infrastructure development, the bid for digital transformation in the government, the plan to strengthen local government units (LGUs), and the sustainable management and use of natural resources by 2030 would be included in the budget priorities.

“For Fiscal Year 2024, we have a blueprint by which we can achieve our socioeconomic development goals – the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework or MTFF,” Pangandaman said.
“As we have emphasized in our Budget Call, the FY 2024 budget proposal should incorporate the priorities and policy directions of the Marcos Jr. Administration as embodied in the eight-point socioeconomic agenda and the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028,” she added.

The MTFF shall serve as the country’s blueprint, specifically for fiscal deficit reduction, promotion of fiscal sustainability, and enabling robust economic growth as it embarks on its recovery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

The government’s eight-point socioeconomic agenda, on the other hand, includes food security, improved transportation, affordable and clean energy, health care, education, social protection, sound fiscal management, and bureaucratic efficiency.

Meanwhile, the PDP 2023-2028 aims to bolster deep economic and social transformation to reinvigorate job creation and accelerate poverty reduction.

With “clear” macroeconomic objectives, the government will continue implementing risk-based management interventions in the priority areas under the eight-point agenda to “steer the economy back to its high-growth trajectory and promote medium-term fiscal sustainability,” Pangandaman said.

‘Implementation-ready’ proposals

Pangandaman also emphasized that the 2024 national budget shall cover only “implementation-ready” programs of government agencies.

She gave the reminder before the heads of budget, accounting, and planning units of national government agencies (NGAs) and government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCCs) who participated in the budget forum.

“Given the competing demands of government programs against a backdrop of limited resources, we will ensure that only implementation-ready agency proposals are included in the FY 2024 national budget. As such, the agencies’ budget proposals should contain concrete program plans and designs so we can manage our budget efficiently and effectively,” Pangandaman said.

She said the inclusion of implementation-ready programs is the key feature of Cash Budgeting System (CBS), a public financial management reform that aims to address delays caused by the piling of contracts, underspending, and challenges on the implementation capacity of agencies.

She added that her office would also look into the government agencies’ previous year budget utilization and performance, as part of the evaluation process.

“With all these guiding frameworks, we will consolidate and optimize the resources of the national government to gain its maximum benefit and multiplier effects for the economy,” Pangandaman said.

Regain public trust, confidence

The budget chief also called on the attendees to adopt budgetary reforms to regain public trust and confidence in the government.

The reforms, Pangandaman said, include the 2-Tier Budgeting Approach; the disaggregation of lumpsum amounts within the agency-specific budgets; a well-functioning, results-based and credible monitoring and evaluation system; and the Open Government Partnership.

“Let us continue to regain public trust and confidence by adopting our existing reforms for greater budget transparency, openness, accountability, and reliability,” she said.

The conduct of the budget fora is part of the start of the budget preparation throughout the bureaucracy, following the issuance of Memorandum 145 or the National Budget Call, which signals the preparatory stage for the drafting of the National Expenditure Program for FY 2024.