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To implement more projects, Gov’t shells out higher infra spending in 2017

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The government’s infrastructure spending in 2017 climbed 15. 4 percent amid the current administration’s massive projects in public works, military modernization and other capital outlays.

Data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed that the investment in infrastructure last year hit P568.8 from the P493 billion in 2016.

The agency added the increase seen in disbursements on infrastructure and other capital projects could be attributed to “the implementation of road infrastructure projects (of the Department of Public Works and Highways), projects under the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program (of the Department of National Defense), Capability Enhancement Program (of the Department of the Interior and Local Government-Philippine National Police), and other capital outlay projects such as repair and rehabilitation of school facilities (of the Department of Education/state universities and colleges).”

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno noted that under this spending, the Duterte administration was able to implement the unfinished projects of the previous regime.

The data also stated that in the last month of 2017, the infrastructure spending jumped 23 percent year-on-year and surged 87.8 percent month-on-month.

“This covers road infrastructure projects such as construction, improvements of roads and replacement of bridges in Luzon, Central Visayas and Mindanao; flood control projects and rehabilitation of dike and river basins in Pangasinan, Central Luzon (Pampanga and Nueva Ecija), and National Capital Region (Marikina, Valenzuela and Quezon City); and projects from the AFP Modernization Program, namely acquisition of munitions and purchase of engineering and information and communications technology equipment,” the DBM said.

The Budget secretary said that due to higher infrastructure spending, its share to the gross domestic product in full-year 2017 increased a notch from 5.4 percent to 5.6 percent.

With this, Diokno was bullish the Philippines could sustain the momentum and reach this 2018’s 6.1-percent infrastructure spending-to-GDP target.

Subsequently, despite the increased spending for infrastructure projects, Diokno stressed that they did not exceed the allotted budget as the government underspent on other costs such as “personnel services, maintenance and other operating expenses, allotment to local government units, interest payments, tax expenditures, and capital transfers to local governments.”

The DBM data showed that the total national government expenditures last year dipped 2.9 percent to P2.824 trillion under the allotted P2.909 trillion program.

“Underspending, defined as the deviation of actual from programmed disbursements, has been cut down to 2 percent if interest payments were excluded and 3 percent if included. Why exclude interest payments? Because lower interest payments is not necessarily bad,” he explained.

“The lower underspending rate is a result of what we started last year which is to shorten the validity of appropriations to one year. Because of this, agencies are compelled to expedite the implementation of their projects and programs. They were also required to include only projects that are shovel-ready,” Diokno added.

“This is a remarkable feat given the size of our budget and issues of underspending in the past. The government’s role in promoting growth with equity will only be enhanced given the timely use of public funds,” he said.

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