CEBU’S local government units are finalizing their budgets for 2020.
Since last week, local officials have been giving statements on what they believe to be their priorities or the areas that would get the bigger slices of the budgetary pie next year.
Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said last week that infrastructure and medical services are the two top priorities of the Cebu Provincial Government under its planned 2020 annual budget. She expects next year to have an amount bigger than the P4.7 billion allocated for 2019 but she did not give a figure for 2020. Among the infrastructure projects she has in mind are the concreting works for provincial and barangay roads, installation of water systems and repairing or existing infrastructure of villages and component towns, SunStar Cebu reported.
As to the medical services, she said provincial hospitals in the cities of Bogo, Carcar and Danao, and the town of Balamban will be upgraded next year, and district hospitals with 25 or 50 beds would have their capacities quadrupled or doubled to 100 beds, especially for district hospitals in the far-flung islands of Bantayan and Camotes.
For Cebu City, Mayor Edgardo Labella had said Council members, 18 of them, will get consultants and new vehicles. These would form part of the 2020 annual budget that he would propose to the City Council for approval. Labella did not say how many consultants would be hired, their expertise and compensation. He said he prefers four-wheel drive or 4x4-type vehicles for them so they could visit mountain barangays.
What Labella emphasized was that he would not do what his predecessor did to him. He would not use the budget as a tool of reprisal on those who did not help him in his election last May, he said.
Both Garcia and Labella must have their own processes to determine their priorities or how much goes to this or that, but the budget process is ideally one that is participative. The voice of the people should be part of the preparation of the 2020 fund.
A local budget circular of the Department of Budget and Management in 2016 reminded local government units of the need for a budgeting process that is participatory, policy-based and performance-informed. On participatory budgeting, it emphasized the role of civil society organizations “in each phase of the local budget process.”
There must be guidelines on how the governor or mayor get the people’s pulse, their sentiment on budgetary priorities.
There are private sector representatives in the Regional Development Council and other consultative and policy-making bodies. But there must be mechanisms also of direct participation of citizens and civil society groups in deciding on the allocation of resources.
The Provincial Board and City Council should have such mechanisms in place when they deliberate on the budgets. Transparency in the deliberation of local budgets help empower citizens and gain for local officials the support for their actions.