PH reinvigorates infra plan to erase pandemic wounds
Next year’s expected economic rebound would be supported by massive infrastructure investments geared toward making the country new normal-ready through more flood control and water facilities as well as additional digital and health projects, the country’s chief economist said on Thursday.
Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua told a press conference the P1.17 trillion earmarked for infrastructure expenditures for 2021, equivalent to 5.9 percent of gross domestic product, would generate 1.7 million jobs to temper this year’s 15-year-high unemployment rate and help the country revert to a positive growth starting the first quarter of next year.
Chua, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), said the “strong, positive” growth of 6.5 to 7.5 percent next year would be dependent on an effective and widely available COVID-19 vaccine by the second half of 2021.
The government slashed its infrastructure program for 2020 to P824.9 billion from last year’s actual spending of P1.05 trillion as it had to realign budget items into immediate COVID-19 response. And with the impact of the pandemic so far on businesses and livelihoods, the government expects the economy to contract by 8.5 to 9.5 percent this year.
However, Neda Undersecretary Jonathan L. Uy said the ongoing review of the administration’s banner infra program “Build, Build, Build” was expected to yield projects that would address recent troubles like heavy flooding brought about by the string of strong typhoons that entered the country.
Uy noted, for example, the China-financed Kaliwa Dam project was already progressing. He said stakeholders and local residents in areas to be affected by the construction were already amenable to the dam’s construction.
In this latest recalibration of the “Build, Build, Build” program, government managers were assessing which of the 104 projects approved in August could be implemented or completed before President Duterte steps down in 2022.
Chua said about 26 projects, which have yet to be approved, could be replaced with implementation-ready projects in the digital technology and health sectors.
For bulk of projects that have proceeded, Uy said construction work had resumed amid less restrictive quarantine alongside ongoing procurement, albeit disbursement of funds was “lagging.”
In this regard, Chua welcomed Congress’ move to extend the validity of the P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) until early next year, which would allow implementing agencies to spend the necessary funds.
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