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Diokno positive of hitting 2018 spending program

Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno is optimistic of achieving the 2018 expenditure program of PHP3.364 trillion with the help of the “Build, Build, Build” program and after almost hitting the 2017 goal.

Last year, government spending rose 11 percent to PHP2.823 trillion from year-ago’s PHP2.549 trillion but was 3 percent short against the PHP2.909-trillion target.

In a briefing Wednesday, Diokno said the target was to spend around PHP1.1 trillion a year until 2022 for infrastructure projects alone.

The Duterte government targets to implement 75 infrastructure projects mostly in the rural areas particularly in Mindanao in a bid to uplift the economy of major areas and those that have been left behind to ensure that growth would be more inclusive.

Economic managers have set a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) target of 7 to 8 percent from 2018-22, backed by expectations on the impact of the infrastructure program, among others.

Diokno said the government’s fiscal program was in full swing as proven by the rise of both the expenditures and revenue collection, with the latter up by 13 percent year-on-year in 2017 to PHP2.473 trillion and exceeded by 2 percent the PHP2.426 trillion programmed last year.

“The government’s role in promoting growth with equity will only be enhanced given the timely use of public funds,” he said in a statement.

Last year, infrastructure spending rose 15 percent to PHP568.8 billion due to sustained implementation of infrastructure program like construction and improvement of roads, replacement of bridges, flood control projects and rehabilitation of dike and river basins.

Additional factor to the increase in government spending is the hiring of more personnel to various agencies like the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), which resulted in the 12 percent rise in personnel services to PHP808.4 billion.

Diokno said they were firm in hitting their spending target this year but not go beyond the allocation because “we cannot overspend what Congress has authorized us.”

He is optimistic on the continued improvement of government spending in line with the plan to shift to cash-based budgeting starting next year.

A budget reform bill is pending in Congress and economic managers are optimistic of its approval as this will ensure more effective use of public funds.

Diokno said the measure would instill the “culture of accountability” since agencies need not submit projects to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for funding.

“We will make sure the evaluation of the request and the feasibility studies have been done the right of way,” he said.

Diokno said they wanted to institutionalize the reforms for these to be beneficial to the next administrations.

“The reforms that we are instituting now cannot be reversed that’s why we want to pass that bill,” he added.

Joann Villanueva / PNA