Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The 2006 Budget (statement as of Nov. 14)

Today we begin deliberations on the national budget, a tremendous responsibility for any given year. But this year, in these straitened circumstances, it is even more imperative for us to ensure that we craft a responsive and responsible budget document that will meet real needs.

When we passed the EVAT law, we made it clear that we were doing so for extraordinary reasons—to stave off a crippling shortfall in the resources we need for proper governance and development.

Now that the EVAT is in effect, we should remember what we passed it for, and make sure that its fruits are spent on equally extraordinary priorities.

Our people will be paying government an additional of about P80 billion in VAT for 2006. They want value for money for their sacrifice. Kailangan sulit ang paggastos nito. The best thing we can do to justify that burden is to prove that every extra peso we earn will be an extra peso spent on their most urgent needs.

Our people will have every right to ask: where is our money going? Who will stand to benefit from the government’s largest expenditures? At the end of another year, what can we claim to have achieved with a trillion pesos?

Will we see any appreciable impact in the areas that matter most to us—our children’s education, our food, our housing—or will this budget be frittered away on business as usual, on a little bit here and there, on political payback and on onerous contracts? Maybe, maybe not; I am saying that we should do everything to make sure that it will not.

I will work to pass a budget that will focus on and address real priorities. I expect the EVAT to be complemented by continuing efforts to improve collection efficiency, to ease the burden of the ordinary taxpayer.

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