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Delay in 2019 budget approval hurting economy, says Finance chief

/ 05:13 AM January 28, 2019

The head of the Duterte administration’s economic team sees the economy taking a hit from the delay in approving the proposed P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget, forcing the government to operate under a reenacted budget at the start of the year.

On the sidelines of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) bankers’ night on Friday, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told reporters that the delayed approval of this year’s budget cost the government P46 billion in the first quarter.

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The proposed 2019 budget stalled in Congress amid allegations of “pork barrel” insertions and kickbacks among lawmakers, who had also implicated Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno for alleged conflict of interest in certain infrastructure projects.

“We cannot spend P46 billion of what we plan to do…. [it’s] half a billion [pesos] a day—so that’s the amount of money that is not circulating, that is not going to serve the public with infrastructure projects, etc.,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez pointed to missed opportunities as the beginning of the year would have been “the best time to start projects” given the fair weather and ahead of the election ban.

“We missed that,” the Finance chief said.

As such, “our GDP [gross domestic product] for the first quarter is certainly going to be affected,” he said.

The government targets a faster 7-8 percent GDP growth in 2019 even as economic expansion last year slowed to a three-year low of 6.2 percent after high food prices tempered consumer spending, a major driver of the economy.

In a statement Saturday, Dominguez said “the Philippines will surge ahead this year as a growth leader in one of the world’s fastest-growing regions, owing in part to the decisive measures taken by the Duterte administration to control inflation, attract more investments and speed up the rollout of big-ticket infrastructure projects under the President’s centerpiece ‘Build, Build, Build’ program.”

“The Philippines is poised to buck the trend of a global growth slowdown in 2019, with its economy keeping its ascending trajectory onward on the strength of the massive public investments programmed this year for infrastructure and human capital development along with prospects for higher consumer and business spending resulting from the government’s headway in taming inflation and improving the ease of doing business,” according to Dominguez. —BEN O. DE VERA

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TAGS: 2019 national budget, Business
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