Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez on Monday expressed his full support to the planned increase in the 2020 allocation for infrastructure and human capital investment, saying the move will help sustain the country’s high-level economic growth and cut down poverty.
The urgent need of allocating more budget for public infrastructure and human capital development next year is part of the roadmap presented by President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic team during the pre-State of the Nation Address Economic and Infrastructure Forum held at the PICC Reception Hall in Pasay City.
“The economic managers were unanimous in telling us that public expenditures on these major items are the key to attracting more foreign direct investments. Investors need reliable road networks to transport economic goods. They need a competent workforce to ensure world-class products and services,” said Romualdez shortly after the event.
The lawmaker, who attended the forum upon the personal invitation of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, said increased allocation for human capital such as education, health and social protection is expected in the 2020 budget.
Addressing the funding requirements for the President’s infrastructure projects, including the “Build, Build, Build” Program is also on the table.
“Our economic managers are on the right track. If we support the roadmap that they had presented, reducing poverty by almost half in 2022 is doable,” Romualdez said.
“Definitely, I support the economic team’s road map,” he added.
In the meantime, Romualdez, who is one of the top contenders for Speaker in the 18th Congress, said the event provided him with the complete picture of the country’s economic situation from the viewpoint of the country’s economic managers.
“This will help us, congressmen, in our quest to help find solutions to the challenges that we face in the economic front,” he said.
The Leyte solon said the pre-SONA forum also gave him the opportunity to personally talk to the economic managers and relay to them the commitment of House leaders in expediting the approval of the President’s priority economic bills, especially the immediate passage of the 2020 budget.
During the forum, Dominguez said delays in approving the budget pose a problem in the country’s economy.
The Finance secretary cited the 5.6 percent economic growth in the first quarter of the year, which could have been higher by one percentage point if the budget had been approved on time.
“This is the reason why the 18th Congress needs to pass the 2020 proposed national budget on time and make sure that public infrastructure and human development get the biggest allocation next year,” Romualdez said.
With the pre-SONA forum, the lawmaker said House leaders now have a clearer idea on what to work on in the succeeding multi-party caucuses before the 18th Congress buckles down to work on July 22.
Romualdez was referring to the multi-party caucus of House leaders held last Wednesday that drew the attendance of 40 House leaders from various political parties and influential blocs in the 18th Congress including the PDP-Laban, Lakas-CMD, Nacionalista Party (NP), National Unity Party (NUP), Liberal Party (LP), and the Party-List Coalition.
The caucus was the first in a series of caucuses initiated by the lawmaker in an effort to build a coalition to advance the legislative agenda of Duterte.
Romualdez noted that in the 2019 National Expenditure Program (NEP), the President’s economic team listed infrastructure and human development as the top recipients with PHP1.215 trillion, or about 33.3 percent of this year’s PHP3.757-trillion budget.
“We expect the same priorities in the 2020 NEP. Much has been done, but more challenges remain. We have to hit the ground running and map out strategies on how to fast-track the President’s priority bills,” Romualdez said.
“I will ask our Congress leaders to immediately buckle down to work and discuss this roadmap in our next multi-party caucus,” he added.
He also reiterated the House leaders’ commitment to pass the 2020 General Appropriations Bill by October.
“This self-imposed deadline will give the Senate more session days for plenary debates on the budget. Hopefully, President Duterte will have a national budget ready his signature before the end of the year,” Romualdez said. (PNA)
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