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DBM hopeful Congress will approve rightsizing plan within the year

Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman attends an economic briefing in Pasay City, July 26, 2022. — REUTERS

THE BUDGET department is confident that Congress will approve the government’s rightsizing program within the year.

“Hopefully this year (it will be passed). I think next week it will be passed in the House of Representatives, then we’ll try to push it in the Senate,” Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman told reporters on Thursday.

The National Government Rightsizing Act, which is one of the Marcos administration’s priority measures, is currently pending at the committee level in the House of Representatives.

It seeks to “minimize, if not eliminate, redundancies, overlaps, and duplications in its operations and simplify its rules and regulations, and systems and processes, while protecting the welfare of civil servants and other government workers.”

Analysts said that the government should ensure that its rightsizing program focuses on ramping up productivity and efficiency and not just scrapping workers.

“The conventional wisdom that the government bureaucracy is somehow too big and should be rightsized or reduced is actually inaccurate. If anything, our public sector is actually among the smallest in the world and correspondingly doesn’t provide as much of the government services that it could and should,” Sonny A. Africa, executive director of think tank Ibon Foundation said in a Viber message.

The DBM earlier said that slashing the government workforce by 5% would result in P14.8 billion in savings.

“It’s always useful to eliminate redundancy, overlaps and duplication and to promote efficiency and economy — but doing this does not necessarily make the government more effective. Trimming fat is necessary but, with the considerable development challenges facing the country, it’s actually more important to build muscle,” Mr. Africa said.

Based on latest data from the DBM, the total number of permanent positions for fiscal year 2023 is at around 1.94 million, not including ex-officio positions. Of this, about 1.77 million positions are filled and the remaining 170,668 are unfilled.

Leonardo A. Lanzona, who teaches economics at the Ateneo de Manila University, said the government should not rightsize “just for the sake of saving costs or reducing the redundancies.”

“Ultimately, the redundancies and overlaps while keeping the welfare of government workers depend on what the government is intent on doing. For instance, are we keeping the highly centralized type of management or are we going to devolve more functions to the local government? The answer to this basic question will then determine whether we have properly rightsized the government or not,” he said in an e-mail.

Meanwhile, De La Salle University law and business professor Antonio A. Ligon said that the government should perform a “comprehensive and thorough study” of what jobs will be eliminated.

“Evaluation and review of whatever consolidation or merging shall be done periodically if it will redound to faster service to our people. If not implemented properly, then it might just create confusion in government personnel and hence negatively affect the desired services to our people,” he said in a Viber message.

Mr. Africa said there may even be a need to add government jobs to boost public services and social protection.

“The rightsizing thrust is misguided in assuming that trimming the government workforce and reducing personnel services expenses will make the government more effective. On the contrary, the demands on the state to manage social and economic development are not just growing but also growing more complex,” he said.

However, he noted the government should also ensure its workforce will be better, more efficient, competent, transparent and less corrupt. — Luisa Maria C. Jocson

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