December 12, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Infra spending rises 12.2% in 1st quarter led by road projects

INFRASTRUCTURE spending grew a little over 12.2% in the first quarter, driven by road projects by the Public Works department, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said in a report over the weekend.

Government outlays on infrastructure amounted to P117.5 billion, up from P104.8 billion a year.

The first quarter total represents 19.47% of the expected P603.42 billion worth of infrastructure disbursements for the full year.

In an assessment posted on the Budget department’s website, the DBM said that the jump in infrastructure spending was “mostly on account of the implementation of road infrastructure projects of the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways).”

Outlays going to the Department of Health (DoH), Department of National Defense -- Armed Forces of the Philippines (DND-AFP) and the contribution to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) also boosted spending totals.

The national government transmitted $39 million (P2 billion) to the AIIB early January as the first of five tranches of its $196 million paid-in capital contribution, making the country eligible for loans as a founding member.

Also in 2016, new roads of the DPWH, the health department’s construction of facilities and purchase of medical equipment, and DND-AFP modernization accounted for the largest infrastructure outlays.

For the second quarter, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said earlier that there will likely be a further pickup in infrastructure spending as builders undertake more activity during the dry season.

While a handful of infrastructure projects are in Metro Manila, the government is seeking to push a greater share of development to the countryside, alongside greater social spending.

This year the government aims to spend P860.7 billion, equivalent to 5.4% of gross domestic product, on public infrastructure.

Economic managers said that infrastructure projects will be funded by a mix of government appropriations -- supported by expected additional revenue from the comprehensive tax reform program -- Official Development Assistance (ODA), and public-private concessions.

The administration plans to slash the unemployment rate to 3-5% by 2022 -- when the current government steps down -- from 5.5% last year, while growing the economy by 7-8% beginning next year. -- Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan