News24

Aquino checks finances

2010-07-01 16:18

Manila - Philippines President Benigno Aquino and his team spent their first full day in office on Thursday inspecting state coffers as a crucial first step in meeting his vow to wipe out graft and help the poor.

Already stuck with a record budget deficit, Aquino has accused his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, of painting an unrealistically rosy picture of the economy to burnish her legacy after nearly 10 years in office.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Aquino wanted to report the real situation to parliament during his "State of the Nation" address on July 26, when he will seek funding support for his programmes.

"The president has told each cabinet member to start work as soon as possible. They have two weeks to get to know the lay of the land," said Lacierda.

Aquino, a 50-year-old economist, took office on Wednesday with a vow to lift his nation out of poverty and wipe out crippling corruption that he said thrived under Arroyo.

Increased spending

The Philippines posted a $3.5bn budget deficit in the first five months.

Aquino ordered a review of all ongoing government programmes and an inventory of all assets to determine which can be sold off to support future projects, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima told reporters.

The government has pledged increased spending for education, health and low-income housing.

Over the next few weeks Aquino will also go after tax cheats and begin implementing programmes specifically targeted at the very poor, who comprise a third of the population.

To underline the government's intent to target corruption as a means of gaining new funds to spend on the poor, Purisima said it would soon start filing charges against tax evaders.