Increments and Avalanches: Unpacking the 2018 Budget of the Duterte Administration
The national budget is the language of public policy. In detail, it lays down the government’s plans for the fiscal year, and suggests where the country might be headed in the short-to-medium term. Analyzing the budget is useful in that it provides a baseline from which various stakeholders can calibrate expectations and, later on, seek accountability. The value of insights drawn from the budget analysis increases with the realization that it is a product of dynamic interactions within a complex political system. It shows precisely which policies survived the bureaucracy’s technical rigor, and whose political will triumphed behind closed doors.
President Duterte promised to spend the 2018 budget to reduce inequality, bring about sustainable development, build more infrastructure, and secure peace and order (Duterte, 2017). However, these are all long-term goals that require time, effort, and strategy to bear fruit. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find exact metrics to evaluate the administration’s success in fulfilling its promises. As an alternative exercise, this paper looks at allocations for different departments and programs, and compares them with the previous year’s levels. Informed with context, this provides a rudimentary barometer of the administration’s commitment to some major policy areas.
Using the Avalanche Budget Model by James True (2000), this paper found that the 2018 Budget contained substantial increases in infrastructure, security, and peace and order, and only incremental increases in social services. There were big upswings in the allocations for the Office of the President — with the President’s Contingency Fund being the highest it has ever been — as well as for the police and military. It was also found that a big chunk of the public works and highways department’s local program budget was allocated for easy-to-corrupt line items, with questionable geographic distribution.
Finally, this paper ends with the observation that the Duterte administration’s budget priorities have indeed changed, largely due to macropolitical decisions made by the country’s top brass. It calls for heightened awareness of the budget and the budget process from both the government and its citizens, as a platform of accountability that the country seems to increasingly need.