By Chino S. Leyco
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) expects infrastructure spending managed to maintain its robust growth pace last year in line with the Duterte administration’s plan to bring its spending ratio to seven percent by 2022.
Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said that the government’s infrastructure spending may likely hit 6.2 percent of the country’s economy, as measured by its gross domestic product (GDP), in 2018, which also almost triple the average since 1986.
While the emerging infrastructure spending ratio is slightly slower than the previous year’s 6.3 percent, Diokno noted that it is significantly quicker than the average 2.0 percent ratio between 1986 and 2016.
The budget chief said the Duterte administration now aims to further raise the level of infrastructure spending to 7.0 percent by 2022.
“Compared to the initial two years of every president when he or she was still learning the ropes of the presidency, President Duterte has shown a much better job than his peers,” Diokno said.
“This fast-tracked spending performance addresses the country’s underinvestment in infrastructure, which has severely dragged the Philippines’ economic performances in the past,” he added.
Diokno said that infrastructure also remains as one of the primary spending drivers of budget disbursements at end-November last year, which already stood at P3.1 trillion.
“[This is] increasing the likelihood of zero under-spending for 2018,” Diokno said.
“Years of past neglect through meager spending and fiscal conservatism has resulted to substandard infrastructure and poorer quality of life. Not surprisingly, the Philippines lags behind its ASEAN-5 peers in terms of the quality of its overall infrastructure,” he added.
Diokno explained the Philippines’ overall infrastructure rank has sharply fallen from 94th in 2009 to 112th in 2017.
With subpar road networks and transport systems, traffic congestion in Metro Manila alone costs as high as P3.5 Billion daily, according to recent JICA estimates. This does not reflect the social cost to the health and well-being of commuters.
With the Build Build Build program in full swing, Diokno said that infrastructure outlays are expected to increase from 4.7 percent this year to 7.0 percent in 2022.
So far, 44 out of the 75 major projects have already began implementation. And this year, the P356 billion Metro Manila Subway project, the Philippines’ first-ever subway system, will commence construction.
“Past neglect may no longer be corrected, but through “Build, Build, Build” and this renewed interest in infrastructure, things are definitely looking up as the Philippines continues to surge as the fastest growing economy in the fastest growing region in the world,” Diokno said.