THE government will seek to make up for the building lag caused by the delayed 2019 budget, which dampened spending by about P1 billion a day, but much will depend on good weather to facilitate construction, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said.
“The specific measures are basically (to do with) accelerating spending. You accelerate the bidding process, ask the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) and the DoTr (Department of Transportation) to move their projects faster. Those are the projects. And there are, I don’t know, thousands of projects that (require expediting). That’s why it was so important to pass the budget on time. You know, all of these discussions about the budget really hurt the Filipino people,” Mr. Dominguez said in an economic briefing at the Palace on Wednesday.
The government operated on a reenacted 2018 budget between January and April 15, when President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed into law the 2019 budget.
Mr. Duterte vetoed P95.3 billion worth of appropriations, which he flagged as not in line with the administration’s priorities. This year’s national budget was therefore slashed to about P3.662 trillion.
Working on a reenacted budget had left new infrastructure projects unfunded in the first half. The delay in budget enactment also prevented the government from spending ahead of the 45-day public works ban before the May 13 midterm elections.
“With the passage of the budget, we will now accelerate the implementation so that we can catch up. But let me point out: All our plans of catching up really depend on the weather. So if we continue getting good weather, we will definitely catch up,” Mr. Dominguez noted.
“Unfortunately, I can’t predict the weather. So if the weather goes bad, then we will have problems. That’s why it was very important for us, even for the next budget, to pass it on time. You know, we missed spending one billion pesos a day in the first four months — one billion pesos a day that could have gone to hiring more people to construct roads, to providing health care, to providing better education,” he said.
According to the Bureau of the Treasury, state disbursements missed targets by 11%, totaling P777.99 billion in the first quarter, although spending overall was up 1% from a year earlier. In March, state spending fell 8% year on year and missed targets by about 16%.
The Department of Budget and Management has estimated that infrastructure and capital outlays rose 26.3% to P118.4 billion in the first two months of 2019. — Arjay L. Balinbin