Press Release
August 16, 2023

Hontiveros: Proposed 2024 budget "unfit" to fix continuing econ crisis in PH

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday said that the proposed national budget for 2024 is "woefully unfit" to address the continuing economic crisis being faced by Filipinos, due to reduced funding for programs meant to assist persons affected by high prices and lack of meaningful livelihood.

"The country and the world continues to be in crisis mode, and continues to be faced by new challenges. The budget as it is being expended and proposed is not fit for that purpose," Hontiveros said during the briefing by the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) to the Senate on the proposed 2024 national budget.

"Hindi swak ang proposed budget sa kasalukuyang krisis. The rosy pictures being painted by the administration do not reflect the troubling reality being faced by Filipinos, especially those in marginalized sectors. Kabaliktaran sa hinaharap ng mga kababayan natin yung sinasabi na "better economic situation," lalo na't walang tigil ang pagtaas ng presyo ng bilihin at basic services," Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros said that the country's economic managers have admitted that inflation during the first semester caused a slowdown in gross domestic product (GDP) growth. She also pointed to rising prices of rice and other food products - due to recent floods, the El Nino phenomenon, and import limitations being imposed by ASEAN exporters - along with increasing costs of oil and petroleum products due to the Ukraine conflict.

The senator then quizzed the executive officials from the DBCC on whether the government has begun to enact any non-monetary measure to drastically bring down prices of basic goods, and if any such measure is reflected in the 2024 budget.

"Itataas ba ang importation ng mais para sa feeds? Magkakaroon ba ng fuel subsidies? Bababaan ba uli ang tariff sa pork imports? Aalisin ba ang tax sa uling na gamit sa pag-generate ng kuryente?," Hontiveros asked.

If the executive branch is unwilling to proceed with such non-monetary measures, Hontiveros said that the national budget should instead incorporate funding for "safety nets" or assistance programs that would allow more vulnerable persons and households to cope with rising inflation.

"May scale-up na ba - halimbawa ng food stamps program ng gobyerno - na sa ngayon ay para lang sa 50,000 na pamilya? I-aadjust na ba ang allowance ng 4Ps at itataas na ba ang sweldo ng mga manggagawa? Aayusin na ba at palalawakin ang crop insurance system ng bansa para madaling makabangon ang mga nasalanta ng baha? I-aadjust na ba ang kita ng mga drivers?," Hontiveros said.

According to Hontiveros, the 2024 national budget "should not be in denial of the hardships" being faced by Filipinos, especially when various reports confirm the direct impact of the economic crisis on the day to day situation of families nationwide.

Hontiveros cited a few studies evidencing the real economic situation of Filipinos including the Social Weather Stations survey in which half of Filipino families or around 14 million households considered themselves poor during the first quarter of 2023; the SWS survey revealing more Filipinos have experienced involuntary hunger in the second quarter; and the Kantar Philippines report in which seven out of 10 Filipinos are worried about rising grocery prices.

"Malinaw na hindi ramdam ng maraming Pilipino yung ipinagmamalaking pagbaba ng poverty at unemployment rates. Sa kanila na nanggaling, ramdam nilang mahirap sila at nagugutom. At kahit sa trabaho, ang sinasabing best in decades ay paglaganap ng jobs-of-last resort. Ito ba ang depinisyon ng ginhawa?," Hontiveros said.

"This is a time of crisis, and the 2024 national budget should reflect that fact in the form of greater assistance to our people. Hindi dapat magbubulag-bulagan ang pamahalaan sa hinaing nila ngayong may krisis sa ekonomiya. Kung hindi tayo kikilos, para na rin nating sinabi sa taumbayan: Bahala na kayo sa gitna ng krisis. Mali iyan," Hontiveros concluded.

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