STATE SPENDING on infrastructure and other capital outlays continued to surge in September, enabling the government to exceed its disbursement program for 2018’s first nine months, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said.
The DBM’s latest disbursement assessment report, infrastructure spending and other capital outlays stood at P65.2 billion in September, 21.6% more than the P53.6 billion spent in the same month last year.
In September, the government spent for construction of access roads to airports, seaports and tourist destinations; construction of bypass roads; road improvements; rehabilitation of damaged national roads; preventive maintenance; flood control and drainage improvement works, construction of storm surge and slope protection.
The government also disbursed funds for housing, water and electricity supply under the Bangsamoro Regional Inclusive Development for Growth and Empowerment program of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno in a media briefing at the DBM headquarters yesterday cited “swifter implementation of infrastructure projects” by the Department of Public Works and Highways and other agencies.
“This is proof that the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program is firing on all cylinders,” he said.
At the same time, he said that such disbursements dropped 4.7% from August’s P68.4 billion, as spending has begun to slow after the government front-loaded last semester most of its infrastructure requirements for 2018.
“This just reflects seasonality. The best time to spend for infra[structure] is during the first six months of the year, those dry months. That means since we have overspent in the first three quarters, then the fourth quarter will kind of slowdown. We have already released what we’re supposed to release,” said Mr. Diokno.
In the January-September period, infrastructure disbursements and other capital outlays stood at P570.8 billion, 45.9% more than the P391.2 billion in the same nine months in 2017, exceeding the P532.6-billion target for that period by 7.2%.
Infrastructure and other capital outlays represented 22.93% of the overall P2.49-trillion expenditures in the first nine months of the year.
“We are glad to report the strong momentum of government spending in the first nine months of the year. Underspending, a weakness of the bureaucracy for as long as I can remember, has virtually been eradicated. Reforms like careful budget preparation, timely implementation of line agencies, and the gradual shift to an annual cash-based budget system have made this possible,” said Mr. Diokno.
He noted that undisbursed funds settled at 2.6% of total allocations in January-September, versus 5.8% and 3.1% in the same periods in 2017 and 2016, respectively, as well as 14.5% and 15.8% in the same period in 2015 and 2014, respectively.
In the past, agencies could enter into contracts or “obligate funds” until the end of the following fiscal year without requiring actual delivery and payment of goods and services within the same year.
Since 2017, the DBM has adopted the same budgeting system, but shortened the validity of allotments to just one year.
For 2019, the government will fully shift to a cash-based budget that requires release of funds, awarding of contract, implementation and disbursements are done in the same fiscal year.
“The reforms on the fiscal sector are gradually taking hold,” said Mr. Diokno. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan