Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila
Updated: July 14, 2021 08:46 AM GMT
Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez (center) has come under fire for defending government spending during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: AFP)
Catholics have condemned comments made by the Philippines finance chief defending what they say has been a dubious use of government funds to alleviate people’s hardship during the coronavirus pandemic.
Money that should have been used to help people was spent on promoting President Rodrigo Duterte and on his allies, they claim.
According to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, the government has exercised prudence in debt management and handling government funds in its fight with the pandemic and Duterte should be lauded for his efforts to save public funds for a “rainy day.”
“Our prudent debt management gave us the fiscal headroom to deal with the pandemic. The anticipated temporary rise in debt remains within the prescribed bounds of fiscal viability,” Dominguez told a forum hosted by the Asian Development Bank.
Dominguez assured Filipinos that they would continue to exercise prudence in managing the country’s fiscal affairs during the pandemic.
“We will protect our fiscal sustainability and ensure we have an ample war chest for this long battle,” he added.
Fiscal prudence my foot. Does fiscal prudence mean wrong priority spending, a huge budget deficit and wrong budget execution?
Former audit commissioner Heidi Mendoza and Society of Divine Word Father Flavie Villanueva, however, accused Dominguez of not knowing what “fiscal prudence” meant.
“Fiscal prudence my foot. Does fiscal prudence mean wrong priority spending, a huge budget deficit and wrong budget execution?” Mendoza posted on Facebook.
She alleged that pandemic funds were redirected and spent on Duterte’s allies.
“I thought we needed the money to combat the pandemic ... Is it fiscal prudence to spend money on financing useless propaganda projects instead of giving it to the people?” she asked.
Mendoza was referring to alleged troll farms run by Duterte’s allies to promote the president and discredit his critics on social media through spreading fake news or direct insults.
Opposition lawmakers recently launched an investigation into claims that such entities were state-backed and state-funded.
Father Villanueva said the administration had spent according to its own needs instead of the people’s.
“Perhaps this administration has likewise redefined the meaning of fiscal prudence according to their fiscal favor. So what fiscal prudence is he [Dominguez] talking about?” Father Villauenva told UCA News.
He said the country’s debt had hit an all-time high of 10.99 trillion pesos (US$219.2 billion) in April.
“Both domestic and international debt have hit all-time highs during this administration, marking the worst fiscal crisis this country has seen,” Father Villanueva added.
“This is not fiscal prudence. The facts are contrary to what the Duterte administration is claiming. There are no more funds for a rainy day.”