Lacson Raises Fiscal Discipline, Empowering Local Government to Start ‘Tour of Luzon’
July 9, 2021
Economy , Ping Says
July 9, 2021 - Why can’t the government be run efficiently, like a big private corporation?
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson posed this question in meetings with local businessmen in Pampanga and local officials in Malolos, Bulacan during the first day of his and Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III’s “Tour of Luzon,” a four-day series of consultative meetings to feel the pulse of people on how the government can better respond to the present and post pandemic situations.
Lacson noted that fiscal discipline and a more efficient performance audit are two of many areas where the national government can learn from the business sector to better cope with the humongous problems that our country is now facing amid the pandemic.
“This is something we want to discuss with you: Isn’t it a sound concept to run the government like a private corporation? For example, many consider Singapore a big ‘corporation,’ in the sense that investments by the people come back to them in the form of social services and other forms of public service. We want to learn from you on these things. We know the companies you run would not be successful if your decision-making is not sound,” Lacson said at a consultation with local business leaders in Pampanga.
“In the case of our government, in the preparation of the budget plan for example, instead of the Development Budget Coordinating Council (DBCC) through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) imposing a budget ceiling for the different agencies to work on, it should instead follow what private corporations do, like start from zero and make each of their departments to propose and justify before the board their annual budget,” he added.
Lacson likewise stressed the need to digitize and automate government processes to minimize graft and corruption. This includes doing away with human intervention in tax and customs collections, and monitoring of public expenditures to better utilize the loans contracted by the national government which as of May 2021 has already hit a record-high P11.071 trillion and counting.
“We borrow and borrow but we keep squandering the monies instead of properly investing them in our country’s development particularly in the countryside, where vast areas and resources are waiting to be tapped for future investments opportunities,” Lacson lamented.
Lacson and Sotto also stressed the need to empower rural areas to partner with the national government in bringing economic development to the people, by bridging the disconnect between the national government and the needs and priorities of the local government units, as well as issues affecting traders in the provinces.
“No doubt, local government units and the national government are partners in promoting the welfare and well-being of the people. Every year, billions of pesos in the national budget go unused, while there is a gaping disconnect between the national government and the needs and priorities of the local government. One way to address this is to channel the unused billions to local governments for their development projects,” Lacson, who authored Senate Bill 23 or the proposed Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment (BRAVE) Act of 2019, said at a separate consultation in Tarlac.
“The target is that once local governments have the needed funding for their development projects, this would encourage Filipinos to return to their home provinces – if health protocols allow,” he added.
In 2016 and 2019, Lacson authored the BRAVE bill to allow local government units to get much-needed funding for their key development projects. The BRAVE bill guarantees an annual Local Development Fund to help LGUs implement a three-year Comprehensive Development Plans. Under the bill, a LDF for financing development projects, activities and programs will be given to provinces (P500 million to P1 billion per year); cities (P100 to P200 million each per year); towns/municipalities (P50 to P100 million each per year); and barangays (P3 to P5 million each per year).
On the other hand, Lacson noted Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado’s commitment to require agencies to secure certifications from the Regional Development Councils for projects to be included in the proposed national budget for 2021 is a good start, though it initially covers only big-ticket projects. Before this, Lacson lamented that of the projects initiated by the RDC for the 2020 budget, only 25 percent were included in the National Expenditure Program that forms the basis of the budget bill.
Sotto agreed with Lacson, adding their consultative journey is being done “because we think we need a leader that listens, a leader who will get the pulse of the people and do what is right and not what the people around him thinks is right. It should be the people themselves. That’s why we’re here.”
“In my case, I am proposing a program to solve the problem of illegal drugs and drug abuse in the country and not the way it is being done now. There must be a holistic approach in doing this. With our track record in the Senate we would be able to come up with feedback from the business sector, from friends all over Luzon and later, Visayas and Mindanao,” Sotto noted.
Lacson and Sotto started their consultative tour Thursday morning with a visit to Barasoain Church in Malolos (Bulacan). They then proceeded to Angeles City (Pampanga) and Tarlac.