Monday, June 2, 2008

Group wants debt moratorium, 6% GNP education spending

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06/02/2008 | 10:56 AM
MANILA, Philippines - With one week to go before classes start, militant anti-debt youths demanded that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo follow the United Nations' benchmark to spend six percent of gross national product on education.

The Youth Against Debt (YAD) also reiterated the call for a moratorium on paying "illegitimate" debts, instead of having President Arroyo calling for a freeze in tuition hikes.

"We want Mrs. Arroyo to put money where her mouth is. Her moratorium on tuition hikes is too little and too late. Instead, we demand a moratorium in the payments of all illegitimate debts," the group said in a statement posted on the website of the Freedom from Debt Coalition.

YAD claimed government's neglect to spend six percent of GNP for education in the last 12 years had robbed the youth and students of some P1.66 trillion.

It said that from 1996 to 2008, the administrations of Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo "unashamedly disregarded a widely accepted and recognized international benchmark on education spending as provided by the 1996 International Commission on Education for the
21st Century of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headed by Jacques Delors."

The youth group stressed that complying with the UNESCO Delors Benchmark may be the key to perennial problems besetting the education sector and to "give back what was lost from education."

On Monday, it also launched its "Six Will Fix" campaign to demand the government to immediately implement the international benchmark by pegging our education budget 6 percent of the GNP.

"We will lobby our legislators to institutionalize the standard by passing a law giving automatic appropriations on education, not debt servicing," YAD said.

YAD also lamented new and old students will again be subjected to the same old list of problems besetting the ever-dismal state of Philippine education.

"Amid the political rhetoric and empty populism of our national leaders, little if none is said about the blatant non-compliance to international standards on education spending by the government," it said.

The UNESCO Delors Benchmark set the education expenditure of developing countries at six percent of GNP.

More than a hundred countries recognize this as the accepted standard on education financing, setting the demarcating contour by establishing the minimum level below which government subsidy on education cannot be neglected without causing serious consequences to our education's quality, accessibility and sustainability.

For its part, the Freedom from Debt Coalition stressed that for almost 12 years, the Philippines is nowhere near achieving the 6 percent of GNP target.

"Education spending in our country as percentage of the GNP hovered no more than 3.8 percent. This wouldn't be much of a dilemma if the trend of our government's spending on education is nearing towards the fulfillment of the standard like that of other developing countries. But sad to say, the trend is anything but positive," said James Miraflor, FDC public finance campaigner.

In their joint analysis, FDC and YAD revealed that the country's education spending as proportion of the GNP never reached 4 percent.

From 3.8 percent in 1998 under Mr Estrada, education expenditure as proportion of the total national income drastically dipped to 2.26 percent in 2007 under Mrs Arroyo.

"In actual terms, as of 2007, the total loss or deficit in our education spending is a shocking P1.66 trillion! This is enough money to wipe out classroom shortages, augment diminishing state subsidy to public higher education institutions, and hire more teachers. The amount lost is so big that it can fund more than 100 Comelec-supervised national and local elections and yes, run the operation of the entire government for a year," said Miraflor.

The two groups said that While succeeding governments are equally accountable for this mess, Mrs Arroyo's term is the "most horrible" for education.

"Not even her newfound penchant for freezing tuition hikes of state colleges and universities or her flimsy appeal to private schools to have a heart will hide the fact that education suffered worst under her rule," YAD said.

Miraflor said that of the total P1.66 trillion losses from education, the Arroyo administration contributed a deficit of P1.3 trillion in education spending making her the least spender on education.

"Not satisfied in being the biggest borrower and largest payer of debt, Mrs Arroyo broke another record this time in being the most indifferent in not only complying with the international standard but also in increasing education expenditure," he added.

FDC said that from 1996 to 2007, total interest payments amounted to P2.2 trillion compared to the total gap or losses our education suffered through the years which totaled P1.66 trillion.

"We believe this is institutional robbery. Resources supposedly for increased social spending are being siphoned away by automatic debt servicing," Miraflor said.

YAD disagreed with the argument that there is a scarcity of resources.

It said what is in place is a scarcity of democracy concerning budget planning brought about by institutional mechanisms that not only undermine international benchmarks on specific social services but also gives utmost priority to the religious payment of debts.

FDC and YAD reiterated their call on the legislative branch to repeal Sec. 31B of Presidential Decree 1177, which ensures the automatic appropriation of payments for principal and interest on public debt. - GMANews.TV


Anonymous said...

masundan sana ito ng isang malaking pagkilos! =)

mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mark said...

This is silly. The line of argument here is that if one throws enough money at the problem it will fix itself. To analogize just because I pay more for a particular item, doesn't necessarily imply it is of better quality. One can still get ripped off.

What we need is a system of school vouchers to fix the structural problems of our educational system.

Here's a primer:

In addition, the article does not highlight the possible costs of foregoing debt repayments. It also blithely ignores the fact that educational spending starting going down during Estrada's administration. Certainly the mismanagement of Estrada continues to haunt us today. At least educational spending has stabilized and went up a bit. Honestly, one doesn't jump from 2.6% spending on educ to 6% overnight. Ang daming matatamaan. Which this article doesn't bother trying to find out.