Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has welcomed a plan by the House of Representatives to conduct an inquiry on the perceived “underspending” on the Duterte watch, so that economic managers can explain to lawmakers that the “bad old days” when this retrogressive practice had prevailed in the past, “are now over.”
Dominguez cited as proof of the vastly improved absorptive capacity of government agencies under the Duterte administration the massive public spending on infrastructure that over the January-September 2018 period amounted to P571 billion, which is 7.2 percent above target and 46 percent more than the amount spent in the same period last year.
He said the P571 billion for infrastructure in the first nine months of 2018 is significantly higher by P225.5 billion or 65.3 percent compared to the amount spent in 2015, which was the last full year of the Aquino administration.
“The old problem of absorptive capacity has been solved. The mantra of fast and sure is being observed,” said Dominguez in his speech at the “Sulong Pilipinas-Philippine Development Forum” held recently in Davao City.
This significant rise in infrastructure spending under President Duterte shows that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the two lead agencies in the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program, are moving faster than expected, Dominguez said.
The sum of P345.3 billion spent by the Aquino government in 2015 is even 20 percent below target, said Dominguez, who likewise noted that “set against the infrastructure investments we are seeing now, the previous administration delivered an anemic performance.”
“I’m very happy to note that Congress is going to call a hearing on what is perceived as underspending, because we would like to inform Congress and the public that the bad old days of underspending, which the critics faulted the government for moving too slowly in getting the projects done, are now over,” said Dominguez.
According to reports, the House plans to hold a "Question Hour" with Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno in response to a resolution filed by Rep. Danilo Suarez questioning the government’s alleged "underspending."
“Now that we are moving ahead of our spending schedule, we are now being faulted for enlarging the budget deficit when in fact, we said that our budget deficit is going to be 3 percent of GDP. And we have hit it on target this year, the first time ever in recent history,” he added.
The significant increase in infrastructure investments are matched by improved revenue collections, with the total collections of the Bureaus of Customs (BOC) and of Internal Revenue (BIR) in the first 10 months of the year amounting to P2.099 trillion, up 16 percent from collections in the same period last year, Dominguez said.
He said the tax collections in the first 10 months of 2018, which is just slightly 3 percent short of target, was significantly higher by P298.66 billion or 16.58 percent compared to the P1.8 trillion collected during the last full year of the Aquino administration in 2015, which was even 15 percent below target.