Alternative Budget Initiative
Alternative Budget Initiative
Reclaiming the People’s Purse
Public funds came from the people and should therefore be utilized primarily to ensure better quality of life for the people.
But dowe hear actual voices of slum dwellers, indigenous people, farmers, fishers and persons with disabilities when the local and national budgets are being formulated and planned?
Peoples’ money should improve people’s lives. Government invested billions of public funds to end poverty; but global and national economic growth left 1.9 billion people poorer and hungrier and with less opportunity for shelter, healthcare and education. Meanwhile, the rich and powerful few became richer and more powerful.
Poor countries had to resort to loans from rich countries to defend themselves against global instability and financial crises. The poor, vulnerable sectors, especially women could not even buy food and send children to school because of direct and indirect taxes that increase prices of commodities and services. Yet, multinational corporations are were given the incentives of not having to pay taxes for a number of years, resulting to Billions of Pesos losses in the national budget.
We must help strengthen capacities of poor and vulnerable people to directly engage in the government budget processes. Lack of funds for services for the poor has caused and is causing so much poverty especially to those in the provinces.
In many communities worldwide, citizens’ direct involvement in government budgeting processes dramatically improveddelivery of social services and increased investments for the poor and vulnerable people.Intervention of citizens groups prevented some forms of corruption and lack of transparency in spending public funds.
The dictatorial regime of Ferdinand E. Marcos put in place a budget system that does not include people’s participation; is dominated by the Philippine President; and has no third party monitoring.
Bureaucrats at the national and local levels who started their careers under these laws and structures have imbibed the culture which excludes citizens from decisions which directly affect them. They view people’s engagement in public finance as practically taboo. It is considered the domain of the economists, financial managers, accountants and auditors.
Democratic avenues were provided by the Local Government Code of 1991 through Local Development Councils and Special Bodies; but in practice, local fiscal policy planning is considered the turf of the Local Finance Committee composed of the Planning and Development Officer, Budget Officer and Treasurer. NGO representatives in these local bodies usually became mere signatories to budget documents because they lack the knowledge and understanding on government public finance.
Meanwhile, this is a most opportune time to push for budget reforms as the national leadership is working on a platform of transparency and restoring genuine democracy.