Philippines to reclaim growth momentum with spending ‘catch-up’: finance chief

The steel core of a concrete column is prepared by workers. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said Friday the government would formulate a “catch up plan” on spending to accelerate economic growth that was slowed by the delay in the passage of the 2019 budget.

The “carefully crafted and bold” program aims to keep full year growth above 6 percent, said Dominguez, the head of President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic team.

Had the budget been passed on time, Dominguez said gross domestic product in the January to March period could have grown by 6.6 to 7.2 percent instead of 5.6 percent.

“We will intensify our efforts to restore last year’s upward momentum in our growth rate,” Dominguez said.

The budget delay “hit our economy hard” resulting in P1 billion in underspending per day, Dominguez said.

Earlier Friday, the Bureau of the Treasury said the late passage of the budget caused spending to fall by 15 percent in April, resulting in a budget surplus of P86.9 billion.

Spending commitments of P803.1 billion from the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Transportation are enough to cover the national government’s infrastructure target, Dominguez said.

The two agencies will require support, including faster permit approvals. Dominguez said he hoped no major weather event would disrupt the projects.

Dominguez said the government would “double” efforts to spur growth in agriculture. The new Ease of Doing Business Law is expected to drive investment growth, he said.

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