‘2018 savings bigger than TRAIN revenues’

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    THE national government had a whopping P195.18 billion in savings last year, an amount way bigger than the P68 billion collected from the first year of the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, a left-leaning lawmaker said yesterday.

    Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas said the Duterte administration forced the people to swallow the bitter pill of paying more taxes brought about by the TRAIN law only to generate billions in savings.

    “The ordinary people were squeezed and forced to pay additional taxes with the passage of the TRAIN law since 2018 purportedly to fund government programs but it now appears that there were excess funds at the end of 2018,” Brosas said.

    Brosas, a member of the left-leaning Makabayan bloc, said the revelation bolsters calls to repeal the “regressive and anti-poor TRAIN Law.”

    “Imagine, the savings in 2018 were way larger than the TRAIN 1 collections at P68 billion during the same period,” she said.

    The lawmaker said the shift this year to cash-based budgeting system, which supposedly aims to push more efficient spending of government agencies, is not enough justification to sweep the issue on savings under the rug.

    Under Section 67 of the general provisions of the proposed 2020 national budget, savings refer to “portions or balances of any released appropriations in this Act which have not been obligated as a result of the following: completion, final discontinuance, or abandonment of a program, activity or project for which the appropriation is authorized, and implementation of measures resulting in improved systems and efficiencies and thus enabled an agency to meet and deliver the required or planned targets, programs, and services approved in this Act at a lesser cost.”

    Key agencies and offices are required to submit semestral and annual reports on the generation and use of savings.

    Brosas had already requested for a copy of the Department of Budget and Management’s report on savings from 2016 to 2018, but the agency has yet to comply with the request.

    Last February, then House committee on appropriations chair Rolando Andaya Jr. disclosed that the government had P370 billion in savings in 2017.

    Andaya had said that then Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s statements during the budget hearings confirmed that the government has hundreds of billions of pesos in savings from unexpended appropriations in the 2017 and 2018 budgets.

    The former lawmaker said unused funds are supposed to be spent the following year for programs and projects since appropriations have a minimum shelf life of two years.

    Andaya had said the fact remains that there was P370 billion savings in 2017 and a much bigger amount of savings in 2018 and that Diokno, now Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor, had the sole power to disburse for government programs and projects.

    “If there is no such thing as DBM pork, why can’t Secretary Diokno show the savings of 2017 and 2018? He (Diokno) has the guts to deny before the media that these savings are being disbursed by DBM, yet he cowers in fear at the thought of being asked about it in Congress. Five times we invited him to explain in Congress. Five times, he has chickened out,” he said then.