During the rainy weekend, some colleagues from the Computer Professionals Union (CPU) and Agham looked at the proposed 2014 budget that was being slated for discussion in the House of Representatives. Always happy when they deal with numbers, they downloaded the pdf files from the website of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), crunched them with their computer scripts to extract the numbers and sat down to look at what was in store for government’s spending next year.
There were some surprising numbers that turned out from this data-mining exercise.
Take for example the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) through the years (2008-2014): we found out that there was an upsurge of fund allocations under the current Aquino government compared to the previous Arroyo administration. In 2008, the PDAF appropriation was about 7.89 billion pesos which rose to 10.86 billion by 2010. The PDAF appropriations from 2011 to the proposed 2014 budget have risen to more than twice its 2010 value to around 24.875 billion on the average. The 2014 PDAF proposal reaches 25.2 billion according to the data of the DBM.
This rise in PDAF allocations under the Aquino government is disturbing in light of the controversy surrounding its use in the past years. The plotted data can be seen at www.agham.org/cms/content/pdaf-through-the-years.
There were also some “expected” budgetary issues such as the continuing low budget for science and technology compared to that required by Unesco and the OECD. The proposed public funding for the Department of Science and Technology is only 0.53% of the total budget for the year 2014. This is way too far from what the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries normally allocate to its science and technology. For scientific research and development alone, these countries devote 2.25% of their national budget.
The 2014 proposed budget claims to fund “inclusive development” by focusing on poverty alleviation and reducing the rate of underemployment. Yet, the limited budgetary allocation for Science and Technology betrays a fragmented strategy to bring this about. What is lacking of course is a blueprint for genuine national development that can transform prevailing backward agricultural production and mobilize the vast human resources in the countryside. The role of science and technology in this regard cannot be underscored.
The DOST is one of the agencies that continues to be given a meager budget which results to poor delivery of science and technology programs for the people. Divorced from a general program of building domestic industries, it has a program, for example, that is geared towards the testing needs of foreign semiconductor locators rather than building our own capabilities in this regard.
Science and technology research can enhance different areas such as food production, education, nutrition and even disaster risk reduction to help reduce poverty and contribute to development yet these are the areas where there will be budget cuts in personnel allocations. While there is a 9% increase in the budget for personnel overall, 8 of the 20 institutes of DOST are bound to experience budget cuts like ASTI, FNRI and Pagasa.
Recently, Pagasa-DOST employees clamored for the release of their incentive pay as provided by the Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers and other Technology Personnel in Government. DOST employees believe that the release of the fund could have helped save two of their colleagues who were then suffering from a lingering illness.
Adequate budget for DOST is important if we want to attain national progress and development. Raising the budget for science and technology to almost half of the budget given to the Department of Defense (DOD) would put it at par with other developed countries. Another possible source for DOST budget would be the PDAF budget. If half of it will be allocated to DOST, its overall ratio to the budget will increase to 1.13%. This would allow agencies like DOST to fulfill its mandate of leading the scientific and technological efforts to benefit the majority of the Filipinos.