Think tank sees granite wall blocking Build, Build, Build: Red tape, lack of skilled workers, lack of expertise
Delivering President Rodrigo Duterte’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program at the end of his term in 2022 would be a struggle that may require more than just guts, according to an international think tank.
The global business intelligence provider The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), in a Dec. 5 report, said Build, Build, Build had a “slow start” to begin with—only two of 75 so-called flagship and game-changing projects on the original list have been completed.
The Build, Build, Build list had been revised to include private-led projects which were deemed more “doable.”
Duterte, the EIU said, was “under considerable pressure to deliver a marked improvement before the 2022 elections when he expects his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, to take over the presidency.”
But the EIU said one of the biggest stumbling blocks to completing the program was government itself.
“Bureaucratic hurdles and a lack of technical expertise are among the reasons for the delay” of Build, Build, Build, the EIU said.
“While the existing infrastructure is overburdened by the effects of population and economic growth, the reasons for the slowness of the infrastructure program are manifold,” it said.
EIU said while “high-profile infrastructure investments” had been pledged by Beijing, they materialize “at a languid pace.”
As 2019 winds up, only three projects worth $178.2 million have started, EIU said. “This is despite the fact that Mr. Duterte secured pledges worth $24 billion on his visit to the Chinese capital in 2016,” it said.
Two key obstacles to Build, Build, Build completion had already inflicted damage—delay in the passage of the 2019 national budget by a Congress bickering over ways to pocket public funds and a ban on public works because of the mid-term elections last May.
Several other hurdles are on the way of Build, Build, Build, according to the EIU report.
These included the “exhaustive process of resident relocation, a dearth of technical expertise at local government level and a lack of skilled workers, such as excavator operators.”
“The latter shortage is explained by the thousands of such workers who prefer more lucrative employment in the Middle East,” the report said.
“Authorities will struggle to complete the bulk of its infrastructure agenda before the next presidential election in 2022,” it said.
Vivencio B. Dizon, presidential adviser for flagship programs and projects, had said the government would finish by 2022 at least 38 of 100 projects listed in Build, Build, Build worth a total of P4.2 trillion.
The EIU saw Dizon’s appointment as a harbinger for more private-led projects “because such projects tend to be implemented more quickly” than those funded by government or government-borrowed money.
The updated Build, Build, Build list is now dipping its hands into tycoons’ deep pockets—unsolicited PPP projects in the transport and mobility sector amounted to a combined P1.39 trillion or nearly a third of the total program cost.
“Nevertheless, the shortage of local expertise and skilled workers, as well as red tape, such as constitutional limitations on foreign ownership of public utilities, work in the opposite direction, so there will be no quick fixes to the bottlenecks that plague the infrastructure program,” according to the EIU.
Edited by TSB
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