DBM FY 2018 Budget Forum Opening Remarks Day 4: The Budget is not about us, it is about the people we serve

Posted on January 20, 2017

(DBM Budget Call Forum, 20 January 2017 Philippine International Convention Center, Pasay City)

Co-workers in Government, ladies and gentlemen: magandangumagapo. Welcome and thank you for being here.
Today’s forum gathers officials and representatives from all the Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) to discuss the process of preparing the 2018 budget.
The past three days, we gathered officials and technical staff of DBM and other national government agencies to talk about how we can best put together their 2018 budgets and the collective 2018 National Budget – the first real budget to be crafted under the Duterte administration.
This is an important event for all of us in government, and you are here because you are the people who know best how your agency can fulfill its mandate.
GOCCs play an important role in government service and nation-building as you are the highly specialized instrumentality of the government that caters to specific needs of the people.
You are here because you are the people who know how your agency can contribute most effectively to our goal of sustaining the President’s 0+10-Point Socioeconomic Agenda – 0 there means peace and order.
While the Agenda is the blueprint in achieving the promise of change and prosperity, the 2018 budget and the future budgets until 2022 are expected to put flesh and blood to this skeletal Agenda.
We plan to invest boldly in infrastructure development to raise productivity, create a lot of decent jobs, and attract investors.
We plan to provide full support to all regions in the country, rich and poor, but most especially to the poorest, lagging, and climate-vulnerable areas, to help them catch up with the other leading regions.
We will continue efforts to strengthen the link between planning and budgeting, and streamline the implementation of projects so that our people realize results immediately.
I ask everyone to never lose sight of what should matter most to us: the appropriate role of government, the mandate of our respective agencies, our readiness to execute our listed programs and projects, and the capability of agency officials and staff to implement their budget and achieve their objectives.
Our end goal in this exercise is not just a jumble of meaningless numbers, put together aimlessly just to have a large budget. Rather, it is to fulfill the appropriate role of government: to establish a strong, not a failed, state; a reliable national defense; meaningful law and order; efficient and unbiased justice system; superior public infrastructure; excellent and accessible public education; universal health care; significant job creation and poverty reduction; and empowered, responsible, and responsive local governments.
As we prepare the 2018 budget, we should do a lot of soul-searching. The agency head and senior officials should ask, among others, the following questions:
● What is the appropriate role of my agency in the overall scheme of having a strong, responsive, and responsible government? For example, if my agency is advisory in nature, why should I propose to implement projects or generate my own statistics or train people? If the mandate of my line agency is to do Task A, why should I seek to do another task that rightfully belongs to another line agency. So, you have to scrutinize the mandate – the mandate dictates the budget – in order to avoid overlapping budgets.
● The next question to ask is: why do I propose programs and projects for 2018 when I know that these programs have not been carefully studied or have been poorly rated, or these projects are not shovel-ready? Is the proposed budget higher, equal, or less than the corresponding expected output?
● For example, is the budget for new school buildings appropriate to the proposed number of school buildings to be built, or the budget for new roads appropriate to the number of kilometers of roads to be constructed?
● Now the next question, which is of course our favorite question: What is my agency’s absorptive capacity? Am I proposing a budget that I cannot possibly implement, given the size and quality of the agency staff, within the fiscal year? Am I biting more than what I can chew? There is an economic cost to over budgeting. If your agency gets more than what it deserves, it denies other agencies who are more capable and able, the opportunity to deliver essential public services at an earlier time.

Finally, the national budget is not about us – it is about the people we serve. It should not be: will I get a higher pay? Will I get a new office? Will I get to buy the latest “toys” or gadgets?
The 2018 national budgets should contain the narrative of our citizens. It should be the story of public school students, of farmers in Mindanao, of brave soldiers and policemen, of young professionals, of overseas workers and their families, of indigenous people and the elderly. It should be the story of the ordinary man on the street.
It is about making a meaningful difference in the lives of the youth, the poor, the disadvantaged, the handicapped, and the elderly.
So let us all work together to make their story a story of success and positive change.
Maramingsalamatpo at mabuhay!