Sen. Bongbong to look into disbursement of 2016 infra budget

Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., Chairman of the Public Works Committee, today said he will look closely into the administration’s plans to speed up public spending in 2016, particularly for vital infrastructure needed to boost economic growth.

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 on 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 administration itself has admitted to 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 funding for infrastructure in 2016 to 5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or P766.5 billion, from 4 percent of GDP in 2015 or P 569.9 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 I want to find out,” he said.

He noted 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. It is 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, found 28 percent of 1,200 respondents saying that their lives had improved in the past 12 months, down from 32 percent 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 it wants Congress to approve,” Marcos said.

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