Govt misses July infra spending goal

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Government spending on infrastructure nearly doubled in July from the year-earlier level but fell short of its target for the month, data from the Department of Finance (DoF) showed.

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The latest cash operations report released by the DoF showed infrastructure expenditure and other capital outlay by the government surged 92.9 percent to P38.3 billion in July from P19.9 billion spent a year earlier.

But the amount of spending still stood below the P45.9 billion expenditure goal set for the month by P7.6 billion, or 16.55 percent.

The government did not give a direct explanation for its failure to reach its infrastructure spending target. Instead, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) focused on the year-on-year increase in infrastructure spending.

In a statement released over the weekend, the budget agency said an upsurge in infrastructure and other capital outlay disbursements was due mostly to the ongoing implementation of road work projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

It also mentioned the Department of National Defense’s (DND’s) acquisition of aircraft under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program, as well as the implementation of local infrastructure projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

July infrastructure spending ramped up total disbursements to P210.7 billion this year, the DBM said, adding that the government is optimistic that public spending will continue moving upward in the succeeding months.

“I have a feeling that August is going to be another good month all the way to the end of the year,” Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad said.

Abad explained that his optimism is based on two reasons: government intervention and the upcoming 2016 elections.

The DBM chief said the government has been intervening to boost spending, including putting up additional bids and awards committees (BAC) for projects, permanent BAC secretariats, additional manpower for DPWH, some changes in disbursement policies, among others.

“As budget reforms gain further traction—and as our agencies find appropriate means to optimize their budgets—we can likewise bring the real and lasting benefits of good governance to our citizenry. No Filipino should be left behind,” he said.

The last quarter of 2015 is also expected to show a further boost to spending in the run-up to elections next year. “People now realize that it will not be wise to carry over projects, [given that an]election ban starts in February. [Before the ban], projects should be ongoing already,” Abad added.

89% of 2015 budget released
In line with this, the DBM said fund releases for the first eight months of the year have reached P2.321 trillion, which is equivalent to 89.1 percent of the original P2.606 trillion 2015 Budget.

“By the end of August, we’ve been able to release nearly all agency allotments and the majority of the 2015 budget. Most of the work was done at the very beginning of the year, thanks to the GAA [General Appropriations Act]-as-Release-Document regime. Allotments that were tagged for later release were also made available to agencies that had complied with their fund release requirements,” Abad said.

Meanwhile, a large portion of the remaining balance of this year’s budget—or P180 billion—is marked as Special Purpose Funds, yet to be released, he said.

These funds, such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, are intended for contingencies and should not be disbursed unless appropriate release requirements are met, he added.

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