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Monday, April 27, 2009

Watch your spending, Chiz tells government

Sen. Chiz Escudero called for closer scrutiny and oversight of the administration's P300-billion economic stimulus package to avoid a runaway budget deficit which already stands at P119.7 billion as of the first quarter of the year.

Escudero said that while the global economic crisis necessitates a strong response from government, the crisis should also not be made an excuse for excessive spending which in turn could be a source of graft and corruption.

The Department of Finance reported that stimulus spending, coupled by weak collections, have pushed the budget deficit for month of March alone to P52.6 billion, the highest in history.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) came out with a report Wednesday that the Philippine economy is expected to post zero growth this year. But the report also said the world economy was expected to contract, by as much as 3.8 percent for industrialized nations like Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.

"We must be vigilant in monitoring how taxpayers' money will be spent. The administration says it will go to job generation, direct cash transfers, and social protection program. While these are priorities, we must make sure funds are indeed going to be spent for these activities and spent well," Escudero said.

He said the zero-growth projection by the IMF was a highly conservative estimate. HSBC, for instance, puts the figure at least around one percent growth for this year.

"The economic crisis should not be made an excuse by government to wantonly spend under the guise of 'pump-priming,'" Escudero said.

He also called on the administration's economic planners to calibrate stimulus spending in infrastructure towards vital sectors like services and agriculture.

"Stimulus spending in infrastructure should be made with long-term growth in mind and not merely to create jobs. We don't want to see white elephants or useless projects when the economic crisis blows over," Escudero said.

Instead, the senator called for focused spending on sectors that are poised to pick up and recover quickly when the effects of the crisis wear off. These sectors include tourism, and business process outsourcing.

Some economic analysts see a three to four percent growth next year when markets settle down.

"The government must be able to account for every peso it spends to stimulate the economy in terms of growth over the long term," Escudero said.



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