FINANCE Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said economic growth in 2019 will come in at the lower end of the government’s target range of 6-7%, ahead of the third quarter GDP announcement this week.

Mr. Dominguez, who was in Thailand to attend the 35th ASEAN Summit alongside President Rodrigo R. Duterte and other Cabinet members, told reporters that at the lower end of the range, GDP growth will still be encouraging in the context of setbacks to growth due to the delayed National Budget, which caused the government to miss the ideal weather conditions for major construction programs.

“We are certainly in a good position to hit the lower end of the target of 6% to 7% this year. Lower end unfortunately because we had a five-month delay in the budget and also we had the problem with the law which doesn’t allow us during the elections not to start new infrastructure projects,” he said.

“That resulted in the underspending of almost P1 billion a day in the Philippines and definitely the investment of infrastructure suffered.”

Mr. Dominguez said he is “sworn to secrecy” on the third quarter GDP result, which will be announced Thursday, but said he is positive this will be higher than that of the first two quarters this year due to the boost from government spending.

“Our spending did ramp up in the last third quarter. We haven’t quite caught up, I think we’re about 5% short, but we’re getting there,” he said Monday.

He added that government spending accounts for 20% of GDP and “It stimulates the economy, provides jobs, and creates infrastructures and connectivity for the people which is why our spending program is very critical.” — Gillian M. Cortez