2018 budget eyed for Congress OK by October

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Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno. FILE PHOTO

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is eyeing approval of the proposed P3.767-trillion 2018 national budget in October to give agencies more time to plan their respective spending programs and avoid underspending.

On the sidelines of a tax reform forum Wednesday, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno told reporters that it helped that the first package of the Duterte administration’s comprehensive tax reform program was already approved by the Lower House before it went on sine die adjournment, such that it can already work and focus on the record-high budget for next year when Congress resumes on July 24.

Diokno said President Rodrigo Duterte will present the details of the 2018 budget to legislators in his state of the nation address (Sona), as the DBM was set to publish the document in the coming days and plans to submit it to Congress during the day of the President’s Sona itself.

READ: Duterte approves P3.767 trillion nat’l budget for 2018

The Budget chief said they were optimistic to have the national budget passed by October, or two months earlier than usual. In recent years, the budget for the following year was usually approved by Congress in December.

With an earlier approval of the national budget, agencies can plan ahead on how to implement their spending programs, Diokno said. “You can already proceed with bidding short of [award] so that by Jan. 1, 2018, you’ll just sign the contract,” he noted.

Diokno reiterated President Duterte’s earlier pronouncements that heads will roll among leaders of agencies that will be unable to disburse their respective budgets.

Government spending as a whole is expected to further pick up in the second half and reverse the impact of base effects during the first half, as election-related spending boosted public expenditures last year, Diokno said.

“If you noticed, in every change in administration there was really a lag in spending. But I’m not worried about that because it is already picking up,” the Budget chief said.

The latest government data showed that expenditures on public goods and services jumped 20 percent year-on-year in May, although the year-to-date increase was a slower 6 percent as of end-May.

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