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Approval of P3.35-T budget for 2017 seen by November

/ 04:16 AM September 28, 2016

The Duterte administration’s P3.35-trillion budget for next year is seen approved by Congress by November, such that the government could immediately start implementing projects in early 2017, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said Tuesday.

Speaking before the members of the Makati Business Club, Diokno said they would start in the fourth quarter of this year the bidding of projects for implementation next year, short of award.

“By the fourth quarter, you’ll see some changes in the way we disburse money,” Diokno said, in response to a query about concerns that the bureaucracy may continue to underspend amid structural weaknesses.

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“I’ve told my colleagues in the Cabinet that my worst fear is we’ll also underspend … But as the President had said,  ‘use it or lose it,’” Diokno said, referring to President Duterte’s warning early on to Cabinet members to do well and spend their budgets, or else lose their jobs.

In his speech, Diokno said the proposed 2017 budget would support the Duterte administration’s expansionary fiscal policy aimed at ramping up infrastructure spending.

“The planned deficit-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio of 3 percent may appear scary for some investors, but I can assure you that it is manageable, appropriate, and sustainable. Despite the planned deficit levels, the debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to decline over time. By the end of 2022, debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to fall to 35 percent from 44.8 percent in 2015. This is well below the reasonable deficit benchmark of 60 percent of GDP,” Diokno said.

“This expansionary fiscal stance would allow us to spend more to make up for the past neglect of public infrastructure. The harsh truth is that despite the decent, sustained economic growth in more than a decade, the Philippines has the worst public infrastructure among its Asian peers. Our goal is ambitious but achievable. We plan to boost spending in public infrastructure from 5.4 percent of GDP in 2017 to as much as 7 percent of GDP by 2022. In 2017 alone, we plan to spend P860.7 billion—or $18.5 billion dollars—for public infrastructure projects. I estimate that as much as P8.2 trillion—or about $182 billion dollars—will be spent on public infrastructure between 2017 and 2022,” the Budget chief said. Ben O. de Vera

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TAGS: Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, Business, Congress, economy, national budget, News
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