Posted on July 21, 2016
Our fellow open government reformers and practitioners, good morning.
It is my honor to welcome you to change. We are now part of an administration that is honest, competent, and will get things done.
Even when we are committed to change, we reiterate our commitment to the Open Government Partnership for better fiscal transparency, increased access to information, and greater citizen engagement. We will continue with the timely publication of all our essential budget documents, implement an executive order on the right to information, at least initially covering the executive agencies, and aim to tap the citizens directly to be more active in voicing out their concerns and suggestions to their leaders.
Budget consultation between leaders and their local residents should start at the grassroots level. In 2017, some half a trillion government resources, or roughly 15% of the total budget will go to governments in the nature of an unconditional grant. The grant is formula-based hence, predictable and automatic released. There is no absolutely politics in its allocation, appropriation and distribution. Citizens have a stake in this central government grant to local governments. This unconditional grant, a result of the Local Government Act of 1991 is a fertile ground for budget consultation, fiscal responsibility, and fiscal transparency.
On Fiscal Transparency
Fiscal transparency will ensure that the all budget priorities of this administration embody the dreams and aspirations of the Filipino people. Through transparency, we can see a budget that will start to fix the country’s poor public infrastructure; a budget that will invest in our young in order to develop them into a strong, competent, and agile work force; a budget that will protect the poor and the underprivileged; a budget that will help modernize agriculture and transform rural communities; and a budget that will develop lagging regions.
We inherited an economy that is seriously deficient in all types of infrastructure—highways and bridges, seaports and airports, power systems, water systems, railroads, urban transit systems and telecommunications and it is high time that the government should pay attention to this major constraint to long-term sustainable growth.
Since one of the major changes in this administration would be higher public expenditures on vital infrastructure projects, traditionally a breeding ground of delays and corruption, fiscal transparency will play a major role. The budget documents will provide high-value information in formats which the public can easily access and understand.
We shall strive to show our people, and the rest of our partners in open government, that the 5-7% of the annual gross domestic product will go to public infrastructure with significant social rate of return.
On Freedom of Information
The recently issued Executive Order “operationalizing the people’s constitutional right to information and full public disclosure and transparency in the public service” will usher in a new era of transparency and accountability for the government. Some features of this Freedom of Information (FOI) Order will be incorporated in the Budget Reform Act which we all hope will curb the abuses of the past executive officials in the exercise of budget preparation and execution. This will make the budget and the financial transactions of the government truly open. Real transparency is not the same as uploading in the web tons of data on the budget. The information has to be relevant and understandable to the man on the street. Openness means the citizens should be able to ask relevant data from the government and the agency is bound to provide them.
On Increased Citizen Engagement
Apart from continuing dialogues with local governments, civil society organizations, and other local partners from the academe, business and public sector unions, the Duterte administration promises to take it a step closer to the people. The President has ordered the creation of nationwide hotlines which will be manned by operators 24 hours, 7 days a week, covering the entire country. While these hotlines are primarily for complaints, it will also take citizen calls on practically any concern – including suggestions and feedback on government projects. Through this, we not only cut the bureaucratic delays that enable corruption, we also make sure that the government that works for the people and not the other way around.
Local Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability
We will also strive to have a systematically gathered local fiscal statistics to be published on the quarterly basis by the Philippine Statistical Authority. This will provide policy makers, researchers, and citizens a basis for evaluating the fiscal behavior and performance of local authorities.
As you can see, the tasks ahead are formidable. We need genuine political will and competent governance to achieve institutional reforms that will touch the lives of ordinary citizens. So, let’s all get to work.