March 21, 2016

Activist group Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) asks the government's economic and fiscal authorities to stop their "Spinomics" and instead admit their failure to reach the administration's spending and poverty targets, saying that "acceptance of fault is the first step to correction".

"We do not understand why the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) would downplay its worsening underspending problem by claiming a 'robust' increase in spending from last year. Of course spending will increase, as the budget is higher. What is clear is that it failed to spend P332.7 billion it programmed to spend in 2015," said FDC President Ed Tadem in a media release.

DBM earlier revealed that of the P2.559 trillion allocated to Congress, only P2.231 trillion was spent, an underspending of 13%. FDC said that 2015 underspending is worst in post-EDSA history.

"There is no excuse for this. Aquino III initially asked Congress for P2.606 for 2015, an even higher amount than the budget the Congress later approved. Nor can it use savings from interest payments as an excuse, which only amounted to P52.5 billion or 16% of the total unspent funds. Why was it so falsely confident that it can spend the money?," Tadem asked.

FDC estimates the total underspending from 2011-2015 to be at P842.23 billion.

"To put the amount into perspective, if the Aquino III administration simply allocated this money as subsidy to SSS's Investment Reserve Fund (IRF), then it would have been enough to to cover the additional expense of the proposed P2,000 increase for the next 15 years at the minimum, even exceeding the longetivity estimate of 2042 for the fund," Tadem said.


"Explain failure to public"

FDC also scored NEDA for "spinning" the latest results on first quarter 2015 poverty figures, which NEDA revealed to be "lowest in 9 years" at 26.3%.

"Not only is the decrease from poverty from 2012's 27.9% teetering to the brink of statistic insignificance, it is more importantly a far cry from its end-term target of 16.6% - half of 33.1% in 1991 as per its commitment to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals." Tadem said.

Tadem demanded that NEDA and three other agencies - the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) - explain to the public the reasons why it "failed to make a significant dent to poverty figures".

"DSWD, for instance, is hiding behind NEDA, when it was they (DSWD) which was given the task and the logistics to implement the administration's key anti-poverty program, the much touted 'Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program' or 4Ps. If the program was able to successfully able to lift 1.5 million out of poverty, then why are poverty levels stagnant?," Tadem asked.


Contractualization, Impoverished Farmers

Tadem also hypothesized that while 4Ps might have pulled people out of poverty, the failure of the government to stem underemployment, end contractualization, and improve agriculture would have pushed other people into poverty.

"The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is widely criticized for its endorsement of the contractualization regime in the Philippines, which is the primary reason for our high underemployment status. Of course, people who earn less than humane wages as contractual employees will be compelled to say that one job is not enough for them, if what they have passes for a job at all," said Tadem.

Aside from DOLE, Tadem also demanded a formal explanation from Department of Agriculture (DA) on the persistence of poverty among farmers despite the claim of improving production levels.

"Farmers, farm workers, and fisherfolks are the most impoverished sector in society, yet few were asking DA's role in this whole poverty mess even if it was the agency in best position to improve the lives of our peasanty," Tadem said. 

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