The Philippines government has proposed a P5.768 trillion budget for 2024, which includes a P500-billion cash assistance program for 48 million poor families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program, called the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), aims to provide monthly cash transfers of P2,000 to P4,000 per household, depending on the region and the level of lockdown.
The SAP is an expansion of the existing cash transfer programs, such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS), which have been providing emergency relief to millions of Filipinos since the onset of the pandemic in 2020.
According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the SAP will cover 12 million more households than the previous programs, and will also include informal workers, self-employed, and other vulnerable groups.
The SAP is part of the government’s efforts to support the economic recovery and social protection of the country, which has been severely hit by the health crisis and the lockdown measures. The Philippines has recorded over 1.8 million COVID-19 cases and over 31,000 deaths as of December 2021, and has experienced a 9.5 percent contraction in its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, the worst since the 1980s.
The DBM said that the 2024 budget, which is 11.5 percent higher than the 2023 budget, will prioritize the health sector, the education sector, and the infrastructure sector, as well as the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination program, which aims to inoculate 70 percent of the population by the end of 2022.
The DBM also said that the budget will be financed by a combination of tax revenues, borrowings, and asset sales, and will maintain a fiscal deficit of 7.5 percent of GDP.
The 2024 budget proposal has been submitted to the Congress for deliberation and approval. The House of Representatives has vowed to pass the budget before the end of the year, while the Senate has expressed its support for the budget, especially the SAP.
However, some lawmakers and civil society groups have also raised some concerns and suggestions regarding the budget, such as the need for more transparency, accountability, and efficiency in the spending and delivery of the funds, as well as the need for more consultation and participation of the stakeholders and beneficiaries.