The head of the Duterte administration’s economic team has maintained that the pace of the rollout of infrastructure projects was faster this time around than during the previous administration.
Asked to comment on the World Bank’s decision to downgrade its growth forecast for the Philippines to 6.6 percent from 6.8 percent previously, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told reporters late Thursday that “basically, they said they made a wrong estimate, that’s what they said.”
In a report released this week, the World Bank blamed “slower than expected” implementation of public infrastructure projects thus far for their lower gross domestic product (GDP) growth projection for the country.
“The delay in the anticipated push of the planned government infrastructure program has been contributing to the moderation of fixed capital formation growth, softening the growth prospect for the year,” the World Bank said.
Also, “the pace of economic growth could be slower if the government is unable to timely deliver on its planned infrastructure program,” the World Bank warned.
“I don’t know what their assumptions were, so I can’t really comment. All I can say is they made a wrong estimate,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez said he recently had a long discussion with critics as to why the government tweaked the financing option for the P9-trillion “Build, Build, Build” program, favoring instead to rely heavily on official development assistance (ODA).
“I told them our studies showed that the average PPP [public private partnership] took 29 months to implement. In fact, one PPP project took 50 months, which was the CALAx [Cavite-Laguna Expressway], and why? Was it the fault of government? No, you guys [in the private sector] were arguing among yourselves, right?”
“In the meantime, while you were arguing, the public was suffering, so we have decided we are going to do the ODA [financing for projects] as quickly as we can. And we have proven that we can do an ODA project in 18 months,” he added.
He said the administration would already break ground for the Manila-Clark railway project this December.
“Another example was the widening of the Plaridel Bypass Road. When it came to the ICC [Investment Coordination Committee] last year, they said they wanted to do it PPP. I said, ‘No, we can just implement that road widening ourselves, it’s already ongoing.’ So we have been trying to do our projects as quickly as we can,” he said.
“Now I don’t know what the assumptions of the World Bank are—they did not disclose to us how they assumed how fast it will be.”—BEN O. DE VERA