[Opinion] The condition of Pnoy’s bosses

The State of the Nation Address of President Noynoy Aquino provided a picture of what his administration has done so far and it showed how it effectively utilized the funds devised by Budget Secretary Butch Abad known as the Disbursement Acceleration Fund.

What President Aquino reported, however, is only half of the picture. This is the reason why many Filipinos with whom President Aquino consider as his “boss” expressed displeasure on the accuracy of the data he used in his reportage if compared to the legislators who applauded him extensively during his SONA.

What the legislators and government officials were applauding about was PNoy’s report on completed and ongoing of infrastructure projects nationwide financed by DAP funds. But on what program intervention his administration has undertaken in order to uplift people from poverty was not fully elaborated in his report.

It is recognized that infrastructures portray a vital share in attaining government’s over-all development objectives. Establishing needed infrastructures is a work of government but infrastructures are not the only input to propel the economy and help solve poverty. To optimize the usefulness of infrastructures requires government’s complementary interventions that are long-term through programs on education, health and employment, among others, and allocated adequate budgetary support through general appropriations.

President Aquino however failed to present where his administration was coming from and where it is now as far as program implementation is concerned. The National Statistics Coordination Board, for instance, shared that poverty continue to persist midway in the Aquino presidency with three out of 10 Filipinos or 27.9-percent of the total population living in poverty. Just last month, the country’s population hit the 100 million mark.

In the first quarter of 2013, Social Weather Station (SWS) data illustrate that more than 600,000 Filipinos experienced hunger.

The country likewise lags behind in providing employment opportunities. Unemployment steadily increase from 6.9-percent in April 2012 to 7.5-percent in the same month in 2013. The opportunities for more jobs seemed the least rosy this 2014, among other statistics, in spite of the fact that government from the national to local level claim economic boom through private investments and with the increased demand for personnel in the business processing outsourcing sector.

The health sector similarly shared undesirable statistics. A year after President Aquino III was catapulted to power, NSCB data revealed that government’s investment in the health sector proved negligible at 27-percent while 50-percent of the total health expenditures were considered out-of-the-pocket or spent from the Filipinos’ own income or savings.

The reforms that were undertaken for the health sector were mostly focused on curative rather than preventive measures with the amended National Health Insurance Program that increased the monthly contribution to PhilHealth. The effort also made possible the broadening of coverage for sponsored members identified under the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction. All in all, however, the Aquino government is far from attaining a universal health care program.

At the centerpiece of President Aquino’s poverty reduction effort is the Conditional Cash Transfer. The CCT program is a debt-financed program; that, according to the individuals that support the concept, is primarily a poverty containment intervention, and, by large, will eventually contribute in solving poverty. Moreover, it is also directed to reduce the country’s shortfall in achieving its targets set in the Millennium Development Goals and improve its compliance in the Human Development Index.

But debt contracting to broaden beneficiary coverage and sustain the CCT is an effort that is ultimately borne by the taxpayers. In fact, given the length and extensiveness of the CCT, it is now timely to evaluate the effort in order to provide the opportunity for assessment if indeed it is effective including the work of the implementing agency.

Education spending is set to receive the highest allocation in the 2015 annual budget. The ideal measure for education spending however is not for education being in the first priority, but rather if the country complies with the Delors standard adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) setting education spending at 6-percent of the country’s Gross National Product.

Putting education as a top priority is a mandate of the Constitution. But since 1996, after the Delors Commission submitted its recommendation setting a benchmark in public expenditure for education, the Philippine government had accumulated allocation deficit to education sector of around P3.763-trillion.

The completion of roads and bridges can serve two purpose: a step in solving poverty and an input in attaining development. But infrastructures are not the sole purveyors of change; what PNoy’s bosses demand are sound priorities which are responsive to its needs and developed into effective programs that will address poverty and deficits in education, health and employment; concerns that are neglected and that has chained them to the ground for generations.

For the mean time, PNoy means same deafening rhetoric to his bosses.

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