Budgets and Values

"Putting one's money where one's mouth is" is an old saying that prescribes us not to just talk about problems, but actually do something about it. This instruction may be useful in making someone honor their commitment but an additional exercise that may be enlightening is to look at where one puts his or her money. After all, where we spend money speaks volume with regard to what we deem worthy. The budget of a government reflects its values. The Philippines relies on the community during a week in May to prepare classrooms for the school opening in June. It is called "Brigada Eskwela". For the Department of Education, "Brigada Eskwela" brings together the community to help prepare classrooms. For the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, "Brigada Eskwela" is a “mere band-aid solution” to the “convulsions” of the country’s educational system. Basic education in the Philippines sits on the shoulders of the national government, but "Brigada Eskwela" does provide an opportunity for stakeholders, including the local government, to contribute. In 2017, for instance, the local government of Paete, Laguna provided 193,500 PhP for "Brigada Eskwela". This amount sadly is very small compared to the other items in the local government's procurement records.

Above copied from the Government Procurement Policy Board

Clearly, in the above partial list, there are educational programs supported by the local government. Training in welding, rice retailing, dress making, community store, wood carving, vegetable farming, and cosmetology garners over 5 million PhP, roughly 25 times what the local government doles out to help prepare classrooms in basic education. The new K-12 curriculum often boasts of its tech-vocational curriculum yet local governments still spend a lot of money on livelihood training. In Paete, the local government spends millions of pesos just for the materials for these training programs. Does a senior high school course in cosmetology cost 300,000 PhP?

Governments must not only spend money on what we value but also measure whether this spending is actually yielding results. In the field of education, it is known that early childhood education gets the biggest bang for the buck.

Above copied from MPRNews

Paete spend only 50,000 PhP on foods and materials for day care worker training.

What we spend our money on tells us a lot about what we value. Unfortunately, in the Philippines, our values may not be guiding where we spend money on. As far as I know, early childhood and basic education are the top priorities among most Filipinos yet the municipal government in Paete spends so much more money in putting make-up than in fixing classrooms, school feeding, and daycare.