Left-leaning Cabinet member slams ‘neoliberal’ 2018 budget

President Duterte’s anti-poverty chief on Monday slammed the proposed 2018 budget, saying it will finance the same programs that have allegedly averted the development of Philippine industries.

In a news statement issued on Monday, National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Lead Convener Liza L. Maza said the budget will be used to bankroll “neoliberal policies and programs that have prevented the growth of the local economy, kept agriculture backward and normalized labor schemes, such as labor contractualization”.

“We have massive P1.097-trillion funding for an intensive infrastructure program that will displace poor communities, while only 28 percent, or P624.9 million, is allocated for their relocation, a P1.5-billion budget cut for direct health services, no budget allocation for the implementation of the free-tuition law and no substantial budget for free-land distribution,” Maza said.

The proposed 2018 budget is facing scrutiny in Congress. The Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Transportation received hefty allocations of P643.3 billion and P73.8 billion, respectively, as part of the Duterte administration’s efforts to accelerate infrastructure spending. This, according to Maza, is the epitome of the government’s continuation of neoliberalism.

She also expressed concern over the P145-billion allocation for the Armed Forces, the additional P25 billion for its modernization program and the P131.5-billion budget for the National Police, P900 million of which was intended for the war on drugs.

“National security should go beyond fighting drugs and crime. Socioeconomic policies that will address basic needs will secure the people,” Maza said.

Maza told economic managers to discontinue its neoliberal policies, saying even the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) recognizes that neoliberalism has always been biased in favor of “a handful of large corporations, financial institutions and wealthy individuals”.

The 2017 Trade and Development Report of the Unctad claimed hyperglobalization has brought about a world economy with insufficient levels of productive investment, precarious jobs and weakening welfare provision.

“A decade after sparking a massive global crisis that absorbed trillions of dollars of taxpayers’ money in bailouts, the dominant financial sector has barely changed. Indeed, debt levels are higher than ever,” the report read.

“The result is a popular backlash against a system that is perceived to have become unduly biased in favor of a handful of large corporations, financial institutions and wealthy individuals,” the report added.

Maza’s statement came in light of the growing tension between the Left and the government, highlighted by the decision of the Makabayan bloc, the seven-member coalition of militant lawmakers, to leave the House majority.

Maza is one of the four remaining left-leaning leaders in the Duterte administration, after the powerful Commission on Appointments has rejected former Social Welfare Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo and former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael V. Mariano.

Aside from Maza, the remaining leftists in the government are Terry L. Ridon, chairman of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor; Joel B. Maglunsod, undersecretary of the Department of Labor and Employment; and Luzviminda C. Ilagan, newly-appointed undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.




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