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Reenacted budget cost Filipinos P98B.

Lawmakers' squabbling over pork barrel and the delay in the passage of the 2019 national budget caused Filipinos to miss out on almost P98 billion in public goods and services, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said.

Dominguez explained that the three-month reenactment of the 2018 budget prevented the government from spending about P98.3 billion that should have gone to priority programs and projects.

Costlier than insertions

'Looks like we didn't spend a bit over P1 billion a day against program,' Dominguez said, adding that the underspending 'will definitely be a drag on growth.'

The amount was even more than the P95.3 billion that the House of Representatives inserted in the government's P3.7-trillion spending bill but were vetoed by President Duterte last week.

The government will release the first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth figure in May, but Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, the country's chief economist, told the Inquirer last week that economic expansion could have slowed to 6 percent-the lower end of the full-year target-during the January to March period.

Slower economic growth

Last month, the Cabinet-level interagency Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) cut its 2019 growth goal to 6-7 percent from 7-8 percent previously, partly due to the budget delay.

Citing a report from National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon during Holy Week, Dominguez said the cumulative budget deficit in the first quarter amounted to only P90.2 billion, 41 percent narrower than the P152.2-billion deficit posted during the same three-month period last year.

The government had programmed a first-quarter budget deficit of P188.4 billion-as such, the actual gap was 52 percent below the program.

Planned deficit spending

For the entire 2019, the DBCC planned to allow a budget deficit of P624.4 billion, equivalent to 3.2 percent of GDP, in order to fund more infrastructure projects.

A budget deficit meant that the government intended to spend more than the amount of tax and nontax revenues it had targeted to collect.

From January to March, public expenditures reached P777.9 billion, 11 percent lower than the P876.3-billion program.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Apr 22, 2019
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