‘Pork’-delayed budget caused P81-B in underspending
The delayed approval of the P3.7-trillion 2019 national budget because of a squabble in Congress over corruption-laden pork funds took its toll on infrastructure development as the government underspent P81.5 billion in projects during the first half of 2019.
The government spent only P311.4 billion on infrastructure and other capital outlays between January and June, below the P392.9-billion programmed for the six-month period, the latest Department of Budget and Management (DBM) data released on Thursday (Aug 1) showed.
The end-June disbursements on infrastructure also fell 11.7 percent from P352.7 billion during the same period in 2019.
In the month of June alone, the government rolled out just P43.5 billion in infrastructure projects, down from P71.9 billion in 2018 and P61.5 billion in May.
In a statement, the DBM blamed “late approval” by Congress of the 2019 national budget and an election ban for the delayed implementation of several infrastructure projects.
The bulk of spending, the DBM said, was expected to be “heavily concentrated in the second semester” of 2019.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) expects spending to pick up in the third quarter of 2019 “and peak in the fourth barring any other significant delays” caused by storms “and other implementation bottlenecks.”
The DBM said it would monitor the progress of projects of agencies that committed an “upsurge” in spending for the rest of 2019 to achieve a growth of 6 to 7 percent in 2019.
A “catch up” plan would have P803 billion in projects unleashed for the rest of 2019.
First-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth fell to a four-year low of 5.6 percent mainly due to public underspending.
President Duterte signed the 2019 national budget only in mid-April as the two chambers of Congress squabbled over pork funds that offered hundreds of millions in pesos of kickbacks for legislators. This led to underspending of P1 billion a day from January to April./TSB
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