The National Budget as Guide to 2024
We can say that the ‘budget season’ season has arrived. The deliberations of the proposed 2024 budget may take some time in both houses of Congress, but one can already take a peek at what is in store for the economy and government’s programs next year based on the initial proposal submitted to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. last week.
The approval of the 2024 budget and eventual signing by Mr. Marcos is one of the major important pieces of legislation that will concern every Filipino. Its preparation by the Department of Budget and approvals in the Lower House and Senate are challenging jobs. Every detail of expenditure must be scrutinized because the taxpayers’ money is involved here.
The Marcos administration has raised its proposed budget for 2024 to P5.768-trillion, a 9.5-percent increase from this year’s national expenditure program. Per Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, the proposed annual expenditure program is still one of the lowest annual budget increases.
I empathize with our budget chief for the work her department did in coming up with the proposed 2024 budget. “After a couple of weeks of sleepless nights, we had marathon meetings on the budget because, as you know, budget preps usually start in February—the first quarter of the year when we release the budget call. And then after that, the agencies will submit their requests to us and then we hold a couple, a series of meetings with the departments and agencies for them to justify their budget proposals,” says Pangandaman.
Her department must submit the national expenditures program within one month after President Marcos’ second State of the Nation Address, or SONA, on July 24. It is too early to tell what the 2024 budget will look like because I’m sure the figure will be dynamic, depending on the deliberations in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Every senator and congressman will have a say on the budget to advance and protect the interests of their constituents.
The proposed 2024 budget, as directed by President Marcos, aims to continue to support major programs prioritized in 2023. These include education, infrastructure development, agriculture, livelihood programs, health and digitalization.
Looking back, the 2023 budget contained allocations that are helping the Philippine economy cope with the adverse impact of internal and external shocks after the inflation rate surge. The current budget is also comprised of funding for the government’s social protection, economic development and disaster preparedness programs. Included are funds for the 4Ps, or the government’s direct cash assistance to poor households, which received P102.61 billion.
The deliberations in the proposed 2024 budget, as in past debates, will expectedly be contentious. The expenditure program will propose new taxes to enable the government to generate revenues and fund the budget.
The government this early is pushing for the passage of new revenue measures that include additional taxes on sweetened beverages and junk food within the calendar year. The Department of Finance and the Department of Health are jointly pursuing a junk food and sweetened beverage tax “as a proactive measure to tackle diabetes, obesity, and non-communicable diseases related to poor diet.”
The higher taxes on junk food and sweetened beverages are expected to generate an additional P76 billion in revenues during the first year and will result in a 21-percent reduction in the consumption of junk food, per the estimate of the DOH. Pangandaman says the first year of implementation of the tax on sugary beverages alone will produce between P40 billion and P50 billion.
Introducing or raising new taxes is controversial because of the subsequent increase in the prices of the subject products in the market. But revenues generated from these taxes would finance socioeconomic programs initiated by the Marcos administration, such as the
Department of Social Welfare and Development’s food stamp program. This program will provide support to 1 million food-poor households to alleviate food insecurity and malnutrition.
This is what the national budget is all about. It is an expenditure plan that uses taxpayers’ money to finance socioeconomic activities and state borrowings, and identify the sources of funding. The government through the budget prioritizes programs and projects within its financial constraints.
The annual expenditure plan at the end of the day will strive to make the life of every Filipino better.