Press Release
October 17, 2006

Interview of Sen. Recto with Korina Sanchez on the 2007 budget
*Korina Today, ANC*

(How do you think this will be received at the Senate?)

Were glad that the House passed their budget version early enough so that the 1^st or 2^nd week of November this could easily be transmitted to the Senate. The Senate has already had roughly 90% of the hearings conducted by the cmtee on finance w/ regard to the natl expenditure program submitted by the president to us. I am confident & I think its imperative for the Senate to act on the budget so that we do have a 2007 budget next yr and not a reenacted reenacted budget.

(Do you think you share this sentiment w/ the rest of the senators, that there not going to be prolonging the process?)

Definitely the Senate will try to make improvements on the budget but its imperative for us to pass a budget. At the end of the end, if we dont pass a budget & you have a reenacted reenacted budget, that will be giving less value for money for our taxpayers. We will be shortchanging them, in effect, so its important that we pass the budget.

But let me highlight a few points, Korina. The budget for next year based on the current budget in 2006, which is a reenacted budget plus a supplemental budget, is roughly about P140B more. So Id like to see where the P140B went to. It would appear to me that based on the initial hearings that we had in the Senate, only P10B of this went to capital outlay, in addition. Then we know for a fact that we have the millennium development goal. At the end of the day, its all about poverty reduction, creating wealth and creating jobs. So wed like to find out how many jobs will this (budget) create next year, what will be the reduction in poverty incidence, for example, will this be in the millennium development goal in 2007? We know for a fact that there are many challenges in education & health. To achieve the millennium development goal, there is a shortfall of about P380B between now and 2015, not to mention the SONA commitments of the president on infrastructure. And we know that on education alone for next year, theres a shortfall of P32B. Then if you were to include health, then thats another P3.5B.

So theres an increase of P140B over the current year. The president, by and large, has discretion in the net of roughly P240B, so Im sure the Senate can still make improvements on the NEP (national expenditures program) and possibly improvements from the House version.

(So what youre saying is you might even add on to this trillion-something budget?)

We will be reallocating funds. Congress is not allowed to increase the budget. We can only reallocate the funds within the budget submitted by the president.

(How do you intend to do that? Are you in agreement about decreasing debt servicing?)

Thats automatic. In fact thats not part of the discretionary funds. And the debt service component, the interest expense is a fixed cost. This has been contracted in previous years & based on the current exchange rate and interest rate, thats the main reason why the interest expense is going down.

(You did mention a wealth of what I might say valid issues, do you think you can make all of these improvements within a reasonable amount of time?)

Definitely, because many of us in the Senate, same thing in the House, have been members of Congress for the last decade at least. So theres a lot of learning curve already there, a lot of experience when it comes to budgeting and the revenues and expenditures of govt, and the program that each of the department do. So I think many of us would have the knowledge of how to realign the budget and make it more responsive to the needs of the population.

(So if you were to mention 3 of the items that are wanting in improvement, what would those be?)

How will this affect poverty reduction? How will this create job? These are the 1st questions asked in the US Congress when the budgeted was presented. How many jobs will this create for our poor people? How many will be lifted from poverty? Then they go to the nitty gritties already. In our case naman, Im looking at infrastructure so that we casn make the economy grow at a sustainable rate or even at a better rate. Then were looking at education and health. Im concerned in 6 areas: health, education, agriculture, roads and infrastructure, technology and security or HEARTS. These are the 6 programs that we should give emphasis on.

(My last question, just by looking at numbers, do you think that the SONA promises of the president, those gargantuan infrastructure projects, can that be realized w/ that kind of a budget?)

Definitely, with this kind of a budget I dont think that the SONA commitments will be accomplished by 2010. And I dont know if the president really said that she wanted to finish her SONA commitments by 2010. And I dont fault her for that, by and large, because the idea is to give a long term vision for the country, as well as infrastructure that needs to be developed over a period of time. Hindi naman pupuwede that infrastructure projects that we build tapos kailangan within 3 years lang because were elected every 3 yrs. There must be work in progress. But definitely, there is no doubt that these infrastructure projects that she mentioned, and even more, need to be done.

Thats why Im saying earlier, Korina, that for the 2007 budget, the increase in capital outlay is only P10B. that is insignificant. I think we should be able to provide more resources for improving our infrastructure. I mentioned also that the budget is roughly P140B more than the previous year, not to mention that Malacanang really has a say with regard to roughly P200 plus Billion in discretionary fund. If you were to follow a zero-based budgeting approach, or for example lets divide the budget into fixed cost and variable cost, so youll know that the president has a say on P240B of where you should allocate this money.

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