Infra spending budget to exceed P1T next year

Public spending on infrastructure will breach the P1-trillion mark next year to support the Duterte administration’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program even as the government still plays catch up due to underspending at the start of the year.

Documents on the proposed P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to Congress on Tuesday showed that the government programmed to spend a record P1.123 trillion on infrastructure, equivalent to 5.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

According to the President’s budget message, this amount included infrastructure disbursements of government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), local government units (LGUs) and national government agencies.

The budget message said that as of May, the Cabinet-level Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) already green-lighted 37 of the 75 big-ticket “flagship” infrastructure projects under Build, Build, Build worth a total of P1.56 trillion.

“We will see the completion of 22 of these projects by 2022,” the budget message read.

“Our flagship ‘Build, Build, Build’ program remains the engine for connectivity, mobility and employment, providing the impetus to move us forward to the brighter future that awaits every Filipino,” it added.

As such, the country’s two major infrastructure agencies—the Departments of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and of Transportation (DOTr)—will both have hefty budgets for next year.

The proposed DPWH budget for 2020 is P534.3 billion, up 15 percent from this year’s P464.6 billion.

The 2020 budget proposal for the DOTr, meanwhile, will jump by 112 percent to P147 billion from P69.4 billion this year.

Acting Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado said the 2020 budget proposal was supportive of the Build, Build, Build.

While government spending on infrastructure lagged at the start of the year due to the delayed approval of the P3.7-trillion 2019 national budget, Avisado said he was already signing many special allotment release orders (Saros) since he assumed office early this month

Avisado noted that to date, the DBM was able to release more than 90 percent of the funds allocated under this year’s budget.

The latest DBM data showed that the government spent only P311.4 billion on infrastructure and other capital outlays during the first half, below the P392.9-billion program for the six-month period.

As the government underspent P81.5 billion on infrastructure from January to June, disbursements also declined 11.7 percent from P352.7 billion a year ago.

To recall, President Duterte signed the 2019 budget only in mid-April as the two houses of Congress had squabbled over “pork” funds such that the government underspent around P1 billion a day between January and April.

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