The government is implementing infrastructure projects at a much faster pace, a Cabinet official said in disputing a World Bank assessment that rollouts were being delayed.
“We are already faster than before in implementing our projects because … we are willing to take the construction risk,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd told reporters in an interview.
The World Bank, in cutting its 2017 growth forecast for the Philippines earlier this week to 6.6 percent from 6.8 percent, cited setbacks in the government’s centerpiece “Build Build Build” (BBB) program.
“The delay in the anticipated push of the planned government infrastructure program has been contributing to the moderation of fixed capital formation growth, softening the growth prospect for the year,” the Washington-based lender said.
Dominguez, however, claimed that the government had already proven that it could implement projects at a much faster pace using official development assistance (ODA) compared to the traditional public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.
“You know I had a long discussion recently with people who are saying why are we doing this, the BBB, the ODA instead of PPP. I told them okay, our studies showed that [on]average [a]PPP took 29 months to implement. In fact one PPP project took 50 months which was the Calax (Cavite-Laguna Expressway) and why, was it the fault of government? No, it was you [private sector]guys who were arguing,” he said.
“So I said we have decided we are going to do the ODA as quickly as we can. And we have proven that we can do an ODA project in 18 months.”
Dominguez cited the Plaridel Bypass Road, a project that started less than nine months after the current administration took over in July last year — a significant improvement from the usual 29 months that it takes for a traditional PPP project to get going.
“We have been trying to do our projects as quickly as we can. Now I don’t know what the assumptions of the
World Bank are. They did not disclose to us how they assumed how fast it will be,” he said.
The Duterte government has been touting the Build Build Build program as the answer to the country’s infrastructure needs, with spending on flagship projects targeted to reach P8-P9 trillion from 2017 to 2022.
These “high-impact” projects are expected to boost the economy’s productive capacity, raise workers’ incomes and strengthen the investment climate.
Funding for these projects remains a concern, however, and officials have warned that the project list could be trimmed if Congress fails to approve proposed tax reforms.