World Bank to aid PH infrastructure push

Inquirer Libre - Davao - - FEATURES - By Daxim L. Lucas @daxINQ

THE GOVERNMENT and the World Bank may work together to accelerate the rollout of the Duterte administration’s ambitious infrastructure buildup program over the next five years, the Department of Finance said on Wednesday.

Specifically, the multilateral lender will be tapped for its technical expertise for some 75 flagship big ticket projects that are seen to cost a total of P9 trillion — a massive scheme meant to alleviate vehicular traffic in major cities, improve mass transport systems and build new air and seaports nationwide.

In a meeting with World Bank official Otaviano Canuto, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that, on top of enlisting the World Bank’s support for its key projects, the Philippine government also intended to tap the agency’s assistance in rebuilding war-ravaged Marawi City and for strengthening the infrastructure along the country’s east coast.

“We should rebuild (Marawi City),” Dominguez told the World Bank official. “People will go back and live there, so the infrastructure should be good and sound. That’s certainly an area where we will need assistance. We welcome your expertise.”

Canuto said the agency could help in Mindanao, where its experience and expertise was “unmatched,” particularly in the area of education.

Dominguez stressed that the Duterte administration was determined to narrow the country’s infrastructure gap with its neighbors — a feat that would require funding of $170 billion over the next half a decade.

“We are coming from a long period when we under-invested in infrastructure as compared to our neighbors,” Dominguez said. “We have announced our major program is to reduce poverty and one of the tools to be used is building a lot of infrastructure. There’s a wide open field for your engagement on those areas.”

Canuto said the World Bank could provide assistance in tapping the necessary skills and expertise to help the Philippines improve the design and implementation of its infrastructure program.

In the meeting, Canuto commended the Philippine government for spearheading a tax reform program, which, he said “is a template for a lot of countries.”

“It’s very good to highlight what the Philippines is doing in the area of tax reform. We will use what has happened here as an (example) for other countries,” he said.

During a recent business forum, Dominguez said, that to improve the Philippines’ competitiveness, the government must erase the infrastructure backlog and realign the country’s income tax rates.

He noted that the Philippines lost out on competitiveness over the last decades when policymakers neglected public infrastructure while neighbors rapidly built up theirs.

“For an archipelagic country, poor infrastructure is debilitating. It raises the costs of transporting good between islands,” he said.

“That is the reason our food price regime is high,” he explained. “Our congested roads and ports discouraged investors who need to operate on just-ontime deliveries. Our high power costs and unstable supply discouraged investments in manufacturing.”

FILE

‘DUTERTENOMICS’ incorporates massive infrastructure projects.

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