The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday assured that the possibility of a reenacted budget in 2022 “is close to zero if not completely nil” following the early transmittal of the House-approved version to the Senate this week.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said the ball is now in the Senate’s court after the House submitted the final printed version of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) or the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022 to the upper chamber on October 25.

“While the entire Senate majority’s leadership is up for election, either for a new term or for new positions, I hope they will be able to set aside time away from campaigning to ensure that the budget will pass on time. I think they will,” Salceda said in a statement.

Salceda stressed how crucial it is to have the budget submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte on time, considering that the government cannot afford a reenactment of the budget.

“A reenactment of the 2021 budget will result almost certainly in us missing our targets for this year due to its impacts on investor confidence. It will also almost certainly lower our growth potential for 2022,” he said.

He said the government’s gross domestic product (GDP) target for this year is 4 percent to 4 percent real GDP growth, noting that it would probably be closer to 4 percent than to 5 percent given the disparities in vaccination levels.

Investment liberalization bills

He said if the Senate can finish the budget early, the upper chamber would have some time to pass the remaining investment liberalization bills – the amendments to the Public Service Act, and the amendments to the Foreign Investments Act.

“We already submitted signed copies of the Retail Trade Liberalization Act amendments to Senate President Sotto, so I hope he signs soon and transmits to the President,” he said.

He said passing the liberalization bills will be one of the most important boosters to the 2022 budget, because the government does not have “unlimited fiscal wherewithal” to pay for all capital formation activities.

“We need aggressive expansion of foreign investment, at least to match Vietnam levels in 2022, and then expand to $10 billion annually by the next President’s term,” Salceda said.

He urged the Senate to move the bills forward before the term ends.

“Actually, during the brief period of time from November 8 to December 17 where we will be in session. I think it’s enough time. After that, everyone will be caught up in the whirlwind of campaigns. So, the coming weeks will really be the supremely important opportunity to do them,” he said.

The proposed 2022 General Appropriations Act is 11.5 percent higher than this year’s P4.506 trillion.

The budget plan is guided by a strategy supported by three main pillars – Building Resilience amidst the Pandemic; Sustaining the Momentum towards Recovery; and Continuing the Legacy of Infrastructure Development.

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