By: Bingo P. Dejaresco III
Cabinet Secretary Leoncio “Jun” Evasco blasted the P 1.2- Trillion”underspending mood” of the Aquino administration that prejudiced many socio-economic projects benefiting the masses.
This represents “about 40% of the P3-Trillion National Budget” Evasco told the Chronicle at the sidelines of a book launching activity at the Fortridge in Dauis last Thursday.
While this could perhaps represent a over-reaction and therefore a backlash against the Supreme Court’s unfavorable ruling against the DAP (Development Acceleration Program) funds and the tumultuous controversy surrounding the use of the PDAF. (Three senators have been jailed, one freed due to advanced age).
The gargantuan denial of usage of such humongous amount of money for infrastructure and the so-called Capital Outlay of the GAA (General Appropriations Act) reduced Government Expenditure- the “G” component in the GDP computation. Indirectly, it would reduce the “C” Consumption part -since there were less workers hired and less supplies bought due to the foregone projects.
Evasco said his office is preparing a “monitoring” tally sheet to track the apt and fast usage of the 2017 national budget by the middle of 2017.
“One of the fiscal reforms”, he ventured” is to base the following year’s budget of the agency based on “actual usage of the budgeted funds”. This will test the actual “absorptive capacity” of the line agencies and will be rated accordingly by the government.
The monitoring will determine whether shortfalls in utilization is a result of over-ambitious budget targets or just due to lazy, incompetent bureaucrats.
In the Duterte administration, infrastructure projects are being implemented 24/7, 7 days a week in cities like Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao.
For project monitoring, the government is tapping the electronic tagging technology under the Department of Science and Technology in project NOAH ( National Operational Assessment of Hazards).
CORRUPTION AND SLOW GOV’T WORK
Evasco, a former priest and rebel and President Digong Duterte’s long-time ally said that aside from drugs, two of the other pet peeves of the president are corruption and lazy,slow working on papers especially related to government approval sought by the general public.
A case in point is the slow and tedious processing of applications for approval of low-cost housing projects. There is a low-cost housing backlog of 5.7 million, according to Evasco with some additional 900,000 requirements not fully serviced every year- resulting from slow delivery of government service.
One culprit discovered is that it take s developer about 18 months (1.5 year) to have a housing application serviced requiring the frightening number of 60 signatures from the DA, DENR, BIR, LGU and others. This has to be trimmed to at least just six months”, Evasco explained.
Some of those directly affected by the lack of low-cost housing are the urban poor, the informal settlers (squatters) and the indigenous people. Evasco is, in fact, about to leave for New Zealand to study their take on Climate Change and the successful integration of the indigenous folks.
On the other hand Evasco said he is closely watching the National Irrigation Authority and their implementation of several dam projects and the improvements of existing ones of they are all in fact above board.
Poverty is government’s main task at hand and through the P9-Trillion (up to 2022) infrastructure project (average of P1.5 trillion per year), the government might be able to wrestle down the poverty level from the present 22% to 16% by 2022. This is based on the 55 key projects lined up the NEDA (National Economic Development Authority) led by Dr. Ernesto Pernia of this province.
From 2019-2022, infrastructure spending to GDP ratio will be at its peak.
STRONG CABINET RELATIONSHIPS
The former Maribojoc mayor said while there are forces out to dis-unify the Cabinet, the latter is slowly stabilizing and showing some character. Some had claimed the Palace is a “snake pit” with intrigues and jockeying for influence being fought over by Cabinet secretary Evasco, special president aide Bong Co and Salvador “Bingbong” Mediadea, Executive secretary who replaced Paquito Ochoa.
Evasco also appreciates the “balancing act” done by the president in managing his official family. Recently the following military leaders were placed into power by the president: former AFP chief Eduardo Año to the DILG (after Duterte fired Ismael Sueno), retired general former AFP chief of staff Roy Cimatu to replace the fiery Gina Lopez at the DENR and ex Officer Danilo Lim as head of the MMDA.
The president had earlier been accused of harboring many “leftist” cabinet men.
Finally, he expressed optimism that the peace process with the Reds will shortly be signed in the future and with that will follow the release of all political prisoners.