In today’s committee hearing on the status of implementation of the 2018 budget and the effect of the four-month reenacted budget on the 2019 projected economic growth, Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, said accelerated spending and implementation of government programs are needed to achieve its growth target for 2019.
Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez said growth target for the first quarter of 2019 is between 6.6 and 7.2 percent, however, the impasse on the 2019 budget, among other factors, caused the government to reach an amount of P1 billion underspending per day, decelerated GDP growth by 5.6 percent, and affected the implementation of programs for the first quarter of the year.
Among the sectors affected in the delayed passage of the 2019 budget is the education sector as 18,575 classrooms were not repaired and 4,110 classrooms were not constructed. It also caused delay in the implementation of the new school dental health program and in the awarding of grants to 328,889 Senior High School students.
“We are confident with the commitment of the DOF and of the government to drive our economy to the growth we aim for.”
Legarda said concerned agencies could have utilized the re-enacted budget of 2018 or an amount not exceeding the 2019 National Expenditure Program (NEP) and should not have waited for the President to sign the General Appropriations Act of 2019.
Moving forward, Legarda agreed with Dominguez that accelerated spending can still allow the government to reach its growth targets.
The DOF guaranteed that the spending commitment of the two main infrastructure agencies, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department of Transportation (DOTr), will cover its target disbursement for the rest of 2019 and assured that the implementation of its priority socioeconomic programs, including the Pantawid Pasada, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), National ID System, Fuel Marking, and Social Pension, will boost spending and growth.
Dominguez also reported that the growing population of the country requires double efforts from the agriculture sector to expand by at least 2 percent annually.
Legarda suggested that there should be sustained efforts in improving the environment and conditions for farmers, particularly in providing fertilizer and access to roads and addressing irrigation, climate change, and other land issues.
“We must not only meet our growth targets, but also ensure that the lives of Filipinos are improved.”
She also agreed with Dominguez that agricultural research must be improved and convergence among agencies in rural and agricultural areas must be strengthened.
Legarda will also conduct a hearing with other government agencies, especially the Department of Agriculture, to discuss strategy on how to meet the two percent growth target because in 2018, the agriculture sector only grew by 0.1 percent.
“May this be a lesson for the government and for all of us. The underspending of P1 billion per day could have gone to education, health care, and social services. It resulted in the delay of programs and greatly affected the lives of our constituents,” said Legarda.
“However, we are confident with the commitment of the DOF and of the government to drive our economy to the growth we aim for, as well as to ensure that the government continues to deliver quality services and programs to the people. We must not only meet our growth targets, but also ensure that the lives of Filipinos are improved,” Legarda concluded.