‘Shrinking govt could save billions to pay for social services’

An economist-lawmaker on Wednesday strongly backed the Marcos administration’s policy on government rightsizing, saying it would save billions worth of people’s money that could be used to support economic recovery programs and the provision of basic social services.

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Under the 2022 General Appropriations Act, Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo, Ph.D. said personnel services account for P1.4 trillion or 28 percent of the total budget.

“Even an incremental reduction of total payroll costs can provide significant funding for much needed initiatives, including fuel subsidies and ayuda for our farmers and MSMEs,” Quimbo said.

Lawmakers already filed in the 19th Congress the bill rightsizing the national government.

According to Quimbo, rightsizing means that the number of staff positions in government is sufficient to ensure that all mandates are fulfilled at the lowest possible cost. 

She added that rightsizing means that outdated and redundant positions can now be abolished, while new but necessary positions can be created. 
 
Quimbo said the key driver for rightsizing efforts should be e-governance.

“Now is the time for government to go digital. Many inefficiencies in governance can be addressed by a digital pivot. For example, COA assessed that ayuda distribution during the peak of the pandemic took up to  60 days because payment procedures were done manually,” she said.

Also, Quimbo said local government that used digital payment systems were able to substantially cut down payment distribution time.

“Going digital allows for a more efficient delivery of basic services. As government transactions become digital, a number of staff positions will be abolished, but at the same time, staff positions in the ICT division will need to increase. Hence, rightsizing is not all about cutting jobs, but also about creating new jobs, which are more useful in a digital economy,” she added.
 
Quimbo said that rightsizing initiatives will also facilitate the implementation of important laws such the Universal Health Care Act, which mandates that every Filipino must be registered to a primary provider.

At present, she said there is a lack of primary care providers in the public health system.

“The move to rightsize government at this point will allow concerns of understaffing in essential sectors to be addressed,” she said.

Similarly, with the Mandanas-Garcia ruling and efforts to implement the devolution of essential services to local governments, Quimbo said rightsizing initiatives will also allow the transfer of certain staff positions to its proper place, whether in the national government or LGU.
 
“While government rightsizing amid digitalization would lead to a more efficient government, it is imperative that government provide the necessary safety nets, such as sufficient early retirement packages and retooling programs those who want to remain in public service,” she said.
 
“DBM’s objective of rightsizing the government to become responsive in the modern era must be coupled with taking new and bigger strides towards digital governance. I call on the government to prioritize this policy in its first 100 days,” she added.