Citizens' participation in Budget Reform Bill pushed

MANILA -- The Department of Budget and Management (DBM)'s initiative to reform the country's budgeting scheme through the Budget Reform Bill (BRB) is a welcome act for non-government organization Social Watch Philippines (SWP). But the budget watchdog wants the citizens to have a hand in drawing up the changes.

The SWP has been advocating for transparent, efficient, accountable, and pro- poor utilization of public funds, especially the financing of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the national and local budgets.

These advocacies are being pushed forward through the framework on participatory governance.

The SWP is appealing to all legislators to ensure that the BRB must pass the bar as participatory governance is concerned.

“People’s participation in budget reforms is a central concern to us because this assures space and hearing for people’s issues and demands in the planning and budgeting processes,” SWP Co-Convenor Isagani Serrano said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the SWP, after a careful study of the BRB, favors the new scheme of cash-based budgeting (CBB), for it will impose discipline in both planning and budgeting by the government agencies.

But Serrano said, for the CBB to work, the government must put high consideration in aligning it with other relevant laws and policies.

“The government should consider other relevant laws and policies like procurement, red-tape etc., to make CBB work. There's so much about governance that needs reforming to make a focused reform measure like CBB to fly,” he said.

Serrano believes that the government system of budgeting should address first and foremost pressing national concerns like ending poverty, reduction of inequality, and environment protection.

The SWP encouraged the government agencies that are tasked to deliver social services to strengthen their absorptive capacity "to ensure that that every tax payer’s money will be put to better use." (PR)