Editors Note: This appeared as a column in Edge Davao, Davao City's leading business daily.
As the government announced that 2.5 B worth of Build Build Projects are now on the design or construction stage there is a hope that the continuous implementation of these initiatives will achieve two main objectives: pump prime local economies in the regions and boost spending that can keep our growth up in the short term, and in the long term, attract necessary investments in three key job generating sectors: tourism, manufacturing and agriculture, since these sectors add value to the raw materials and labor available in the regions.
It is noted that in these key sectors performance has improved as a percentage of GDP in 2017, but much still needs to be done in order to build the economy using these sectors, and more importantly, create them in the provinces. Infrastructure and the implementation of well designed incentives to lure companies to the provinces is one. Which is why Build Build Build matters to make these happen.
This matters because it is time to rebalance our growth to allow the provinces, to allow not just Metro manila and its immediate environs to rise. In the last thirty years, this unbalanced development has taken place, creating traffic and other high cost externalities that eat into and set back whatever growth is achieved in the metro.
It is not enough that call centers grow in these regions, but that farms and factories grow as well. For this, the infrastructure is critical. The challenge, therefore, is getting over the delays in the infrastructure projects since these also cause delays in investments.
This is why the recent pronouncement of Secretary Mark Villar to penalize delayed projects comes as a breath of fresh air.
In Manila Bulletin report, the secretary revealed that the 43 contractors “have been identified through a software the agency has put up to monitor the implementation of projects.”These contractors, he furthered, have been discovered to have “huge slippage” on the projects they are implementing.
“So, in that point we require them to come up with an action plan in an exactable time period. Kung hindi nila magawa ‘yung action plan, ica-cancel na namin yung kontrata (If they could not do the action plan, we cancel the contract). Then we have to continue with the project, ipapa-bid namin sa iba (we will bid it to others),” Villar added.
He stressed that whenever the agency discovers a slippage on the projects , “they act on it right away by canceling the contract and then awarding it to another in order to continue the project so as not to cause more delays.”
Credit must also be given to the timely findings of the Commission on Audit (COA), which released a report stating that 334 infrastructure projects of the agency worth P40.92 million have various technical defects. This prompted Villar to order the contractors 30 days to repair the defects on the projects.
Prompt and quick delivery of services and the fulfillment of contracts on time and within budget ought to be the standard with which we view infrastructure projects. In doing so, corruption is minimized and the people are confident that their tax pesos are used wisely. Delays and defects erode trust and create too much political noise.
We need to rage against the delays to force contractors to get the works done quickly. What can we do? Take a look at the information board on the public works project. If we see projects delayed, we must immediately make noise and hold the contractors accountable.