Andaya: Nat’l budget ambitious; but capacity to spend is doubtful
By Juan Escandor Jr. NAGA CITY---Camarines Sur first district Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., the budget secretary of the Arroyo administration and former chair of the House appropriation committee, describes the 2018 national budget approved by the House of Representatives as ambitious but doubts the capacity of the implementing agencies to spend them. “The more than P3T national budget approved by the House of Representative is very ambitious in the sense that there are so many infrastructure projects we want to accomplish since we have been left behind in terms of infrastructures by our neighboring countries like Indonesia and Malaysia,” Andaya said on Wednesday in an exclusive interview with the Bicol Mail during a conference of the Vice Mayors League here. He said the Philippines had been left behind by about 20 years by Indonesia and Malaysia in terms of logistics and transportation. “We have to catch up with 20 percent of the national budget for infrastructure. But the problem now is not the budget but the capacity of the agencies to spend the budget allotted to them,” Andaya said. He cited the surplus the national government has as of August this year in relation to its expenses. “Maybe to some people it is good news because we have surplus money in the government but if you glean on the economic impact you would prefer that the surplus money should had been spent. It is not the business of the government to save money. How can you help if the money is only deposited in the banks,” Andaya said. He said the House of Representatives has done its part and it is now the implementing agencies that have to do their part and fast-track the projects in the right time. Andaya said for almost a decade now the unspent budget from the General Appropriation Act have been accumulating. “There are departments now that have not spent parts of the budget allocated to them. Last year for example the Department of Education was not able to spend its budget for the hiring of 10,000 teachers,” he said. Andaya said what the DepEd did was to use the budget intended last year for hiring new teachers while no hew hiring happens based on the new unspent budget. He said the solution of arresting the accumulating unspent budget of the departments is for them to be ready to roll out their proposed projects and allotments. Andaya related that during his stint as budget secretary he was faced with the same problem of unspent allotment but he confronted the problem by not releasing the quarterly budget should the previous quarterly budget remained unspent.