By Ernie Reyes | InterAksyon
Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" R. Marcos, Jr., Chairman of the Public Works Committee, on Tuesday said he would scrutinize how the Aquino administration plans to speed up public spending in infrastructure next year in view of the present under-spending trend.
Marcos has been calling for increased government spending on vital infrastructure such as roads, mass transport systems, power and telecommunications to spur economic growth and provide job opportunities to the poor.
"When the 2016 budget is presented to us for deliberation, I'll look into the details of how the administration plans to accomplish its avowed goal of speeding up public spending for the remainder of its term," Marcos said.
Marcos noted that the Aquino administration itself has acknowledged underspending in the past year, which many economists blamed for the slowdown in the country's economic growth.
In his 2016 budget message, the President acknowledged that "much more needs to be done to boost public spending and speed up delivery of crucial public services."
In 2014, government disbursements fell short of the programmed P302.7 billion.
Malacañang said this was due in large part to poor planning and program and project design; procurement difficulties, including frequent bid failures and the weak capacity to procure; and other bottlenecks, including right-of-way issues, difficulties in securing permits, and coordination problems.
Marcos welcomed Malacañang's plan to increase the infrastructure funding in 2016 to five percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or corresponding to about P766.5 billion, from 4% of GDP in 2015 (P569.9 billion).
"However, in the end, it all boils down to execution. Does the administration have a good plan to address the issues that resulted in underspending? That's what we want to find out," he said, noting that, in the past, the administration's economic managers even boasted about the retained earnings of the government.
"If you have large retained earnings in government, you are not doing your job. While it may be the job of businessmen to create value to make a profit; it is the job of government not to make a profit, not to have a big bank account but to provide service," Marcos said.
"Now how can you possibly have good delivery of services to the people if almost P400 billion of your appropriated funds in your budget remains unspent? It is not a point of pride, it should be a point of failure and be recognized as such," he added.
Marcos said the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations, which revealed that fewer Filipinos felt their lives have improved in the past year, may be attributed in part to government's underspending.
The SWS poll, taken from June 5 to 8, indicated that only 28% of 1,200 respondents said their lives had improved in the past 12 months, down from 32% in March.
"I sincerely believe that public investment for critical infrastructure is one of the best ways to address poverty. This is the reason why it's very important for us to ensure that the government will actually be able to spend the 2016 budget for infrastructure that it wants Congress to approve," Marcos said.