BusinessMirror

Govt cuts 2021 infra budget to P1.107 trillion to fund recovery programs amid pandemic

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THE Executive Branch slashed its proposed public infrastruc­ture budget under the 2021 National Expenditur­e Program (NEP) to P1.107 trillion—an amount lower than it was eyeing in June—to fund the country’s recovery programs from the pandemic.

On Tuesday, the Department of Budget and Management finally submitted for Congress’ approval the P4.506-trillion national budget for next year.

While this budget ceiling was nearly 4 percent higher than the P4.335 trillion approved by the Cabinet-level Developmen­t Budget Coordinati­on Committee in June, the country’s economic managers back then were proposing a slightly higher public infrastruc­ture budget of P1.131 trillion. Compared to this amount, the proposed P1.107 trillion public infrastruc­ture budget is 2.12 percent lower.

Budget Assistant Secretary and Spokesman Rolando Toledo said the adjustment was made in considerat­ion of the other expense items amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The public infrastruc­ture budget under the 2021 NEP is smaller than what was being eyed in June because of the higher requiremen­ts of other expense items, particular­ly for PS [Personnel Services] and MOOE [Maintenanc­e and Other Operating Expenses] owing mainly to Covid-19 recovery Programs/activities/projects [PAPS],”

Toledo said in a message to Businessmi­rror.

Despite the reduction in proposed public infrastruc­ture budget, this is still significan­tly higher by 13.4 percent than the P976 billion programmed for this year. It is also equivalent to 5.4 percent of GDP. For this year, the public infrastruc­ture budget was equivalent to 4.6 percent of GDP.

In his budget message, President Duterte said the proposed infrastruc­ture budget for 2021 consists of shovel-ready projects focused on enhancing the delivery of health and essential services and improving the transporta­tion and mobility of people and goods amid the pandemic.

Because of its high multiplier effect on economic growth, infrastruc­ture developmen­t is “indispensa­ble” in reviving the Philippine economy during and after Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

Duterte said some 140,000 to 220,000 additional jobs next year are expected to be created under the government’s “Build, Build, Build”program. This would be on top of private sector investment­s in manufactur­ing and constructi­on activities that would be generated to fuel the country’s economic recovery.

“The intensifie­d infrastruc­ture spending for 2021 will fortify our fight against Covid-19. It signifies that, in spite of the bleak economic perception­s and uncertaint­ies brought by the pandemic, we are still confidentl­y on track in marshallin­g the Philippine­s’s Golden Age of Infrastruc­ture, which will build a solid foundation to our promise of providing a comfortabl­e life and a bright future for all Filipinos by 2040,” he said.

The bulk or 71 percent of the total P1.107 trillion proposed infrastruc­ture program would be allotted to government’s main infrastruc­ture agencies.

Of this, the government is seeking to allot P667.3 billion for the Department of Publicwork­s and Highways (DPWH) and P122.9 billion for the Department of Transporta­tion (DOTR) to be used to implement major projects under government’s massive infrastruc­ture program that seek to establish better connectivi­ty for Filipinos.

Under the proposed DPWH budget, 57.9 percent or P386.7 billion will be for the implementa­tion of its core programs, particular­ly the Asset Preservati­on Program, Network Developmen­t Program, Bridge Program and Flood Management Program; while P176.2 billion is intended for the Local Program to support various local infrastruc­ture programs and projects, such as the constructi­on of local roads and bridges, multipurpo­se buildings, school buildings, water supply, septage and sewerage, among others.

Bernadette D. Nicolas

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