BUDGETING a tricky undertaking. You lose sight of your priorities and you end up wasting a big chunk of your earnings, not to mention failing to hit your goals.

This is what makes the current debate on whether to buy or not the ancient aircrafts that the Department of Education (DepEd) is selling rather heated.

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Under normal circumstances, making a decision on the matter wouldn’t have been difficult for Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.

But these are strange times in the city’s politics. The proposal to buy the planes comes from Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young, who obviously has the blessing of Osmeña to shove the idea on Rama.

In the city’s twisted political setup, Rama may be the mayor but real power lies in Osmeña, the administration party chieftain to whom majority of the City Council bows down to.

So while Rama may consider the interest of his constituents in deciding on the purchase proposal, that consideration may be overshadowed by the influence of the personalities favoring it.

Guilty, too

But even if Rama asserts himself and junks the proposal to buy the planes, it does not mean that he has grasped the essence of the controversy or why the public frowns on the idea.

Rama himself is guilty of a similar offense. His plan to form a City Hall band, appropriating P2 million in people’s money for it, follows the same logic as the proposal to purchase the DepEd aircrafts.

And it is a thinking that has been in place in City Hall for the past several years, the reason why the luster of Cebu City has dimmed considerably.

Since the South Road Properties (SRP) has been in place, city officials, from Osmeña and now possibly Rama, have lost sight of the priorities in governance, most of which involve the delivery of basic services to their constituents.

Priorities

It is true that the SRP siphons a big portion of the city’s finances to pay the loan incurred for its construction, limiting City Hall’s ability to fund other important projects.

But that problem is compounded by city officials, notably Osmeña, losing sight of budgetary priorities.

They were so focused, or should we say obsessed, with turning the SRP into the city’s “crown jewel” that everything else---road maintenance and repair, garbage collection, improving the drainage system, meaning the basics---became secondary in their minds.

Until priorities are corrected, we will continue to see city officials proposing to buy planes and form a band at the expense of providing basic services.