Infrastructure spending still lags in July

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Road repairs in Boracay (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 6) — Public spending on construction projects improved in July, but remained pale as agencies struggle to catch up with delayed projects.

The government spent ₱75.2 billion on infrastructure and capital outlays for the month, a marked increase from the ₱43.5 billion released in June, according to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). However, this was 11 percent lower than the ₱84.5 billion released for construction work in July 2018.

DBM said the contraction was mostly due to lower disbursements by the Department of Public Works and Highways amid "lingering effects" of the delayed passage of the 2019 national budget.

The budget delay has been blamed for the disappointing 5.5 percent economic growth from January to June, well below the 6-7 percent target. The agency also cited base effects, as 2018 saw large payments settled.

The DBM pointed out that the 73.1 percent spending surge from June to July should be seen as the national government’s catch up program "beginning to take fruit."

The DPWH and the Department of Transportation have committed to fast-track spending from July to December after the four-month budget delay kept them nearly paralyzed from implementing new projects during the first semester.

The DPWH holds the biggest budget allocation to build roads, bridges, and school buildings, to name a few. In a statement on Thursday, the DPWH said over 90 percent of the agency's projects will be delivered on schedule.

The government has spent ₱386.6 billion on infrastructure as of end-July, down 11.6 percent from the same period last year. This is against a full-year target of ₱1 trillion.

Total government spending has started to close in with 2018 levels, with the tally at ₱1.93 trillion for the past seven months.