Infrastructure spending rises in April despite election ban

PHOTO FROM DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS

Infrastructure spending surprisingly picked up in April despite the ban on new projects ahead of the May elections, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said.

In a report released on Monday, the DBM said infrastructure and other capital outlays rose 9.7% to P63.8 billion in April, from P58.2 billion in the same month a year ago.

However, the figure is lower than infrastructure spending in March, when it reached P100.2 billion.

“This is largely due to the settlement of accounts payables of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the procurement of farm equipment and machineries under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) and the Department of Education (DepEd) for its Basic Education Facilities (BEF),” the DBM said.

The higher spending was also attributed to the implementation of infrastructure projects by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) amid looser restrictions.

In the four months to April, infrastructure and capital outlays spending reached P254.1 billion, inching up 0.3% from P253.4 billion spent in the same period last year.

“This is a surprising pickup in spending despite the expenditure ban ahead of the national polls in May,” said Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa, senior economist at ING Bank. “This shows that there are likely several projects in the pipeline.”

A ban on public works was implemented from March 25 to May 8, in an effort to prevent politicians from using state resources for their election campaign. 

Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion, chief economist of Union Bank of the Philippines, said infrastructure spending may have softened in May since it was an election month.

“But we will see more spending in post-election months,” he said via email.

Overall, Mr. Mapa said further spending will support overall growth in the near term, especially since inflation exceeded the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ 2-4% target range.

“However, current debt dynamics could force a moderation in government outlays to limit the impact on growth,” he said.

The NG outstanding debt stood at P12.76 trillion, as of April 2022.

“The next administration has a great window to bring down national debt. Definitely, the Marcos administration has to be careful moving forward which ones to put first. Priorities should be relevant to economic recovery,” Mr. Asuncion said. — Diego Gabriel C. Robles

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