Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Philippines cranks up infrastructure spend

By Darwin G. Amojelar
Manila Times

THE Philippines cranked up spending on infrastructure projects to stimulate economic growth, data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed.

In the first two months of this year, agencies raised spending for capital outlays to P34.7 billion, 60 percent higher than the P21.7 billion spent for the same period last year.

“Higher spending for capital outlays due to frontloading of expenditures [is] consistent with the government’s plan to fast track spending to stimulate the economy,” the DBM said.

The Arroyo administration earlier unveiled a P330-billion stimulus package to pump-prime the economy by quickly disbursing the P1.4-trillion 2009 national budget amid the global economic crisis.

In the first half of the year, agencies have been ordered to spend 60 percent to 80 percent of the productive portion of their allocations amounting to between P84.6 billion and P112.3 billion, with particular focus on infrastructure.

Last year, the government spent only 30 percent of its budget.

Agencies that are supposed to frontload are the Departments of Education, of Social Welfare and Development, of Health, of Agriculture, of Agrarian Reform, of Public Works and Highways, of Transportation and Communications, and the National Irrigation Administration.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto earlier urged agencies to spend their budget to implement ready-to-go projects to help stimulate the economy.

‘“It’s either you use it or you lose it,” he said.

In the first half of last year, the government, which accounted for 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), spent only 30 percent of its budget. The planned front loading and spending for the first half of this year is expected to boost private sector confidence in the economy.

The Development and Budget Coordinating Committee expects the economy, as measured by the country’s GDP, to grow between 3.1 percent and 4.1 percent, lower than an earlier forecast of 3.7 percent to 4.4 percent.

Last year, Philippine GDP grew 4.6 percent, a marked slowdown from the 7.2 percent in 2007.

A proxy for economic output, GDP is the amount of goods and services produce in a country.

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