MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration’s Build Build Build program generated about three million additional jobs last year, according to the Department of Finance (DOF).

During a lunch meeting with lawmakers, economists and former finance chiefs last Friday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the government would continue to accelerate the implementation of its massive infrastructure program as it has the “highest multiplier effect on the economy,” among which is job creation.

“Our estimate is that infrastructure spending contributed around three million jobs in 2018,” he said.

Dominguez said this is among the priorities of the Duterte administration in the second half of its term, as part of its strategy to sustain the Philippines’ high economic growth momentum.

For 2019, Dominguez said the government is maintaining its gross domestic product (GDP) growth target of at least six percent, despite the slowdown in economic performance in the first two quarters.

“We still maintain as the fighting target a growth rate of six or higher by yearend. It will keep us on track to meeting our ultimate goal, which is to bring down poverty incidence from 21.6 percent in 2015 to 14 percent by 2022, and to create more opportunities for law-abiding Filipinos. We will graduate from lower to upper middle-income country status ahead of the 2022 schedule,” Dominguez said.

Economic growth settled at only 5.5 percent in the first half, which was attributed to the five-month delay in the enactment of the 2019 GAA.

During this period, Dominguez said the government had to hold off on the implementation of new and continuing projects that would have boosted growth in the year’s first half.

To help the economy recover, Dominguez said the government has crafted a catch-up spending plan for the rest of the year.

He said the leaders of both the Senate and the House of Representatives are also meeting every month to monitor the progress on the proposed 2020 budget to avoid a repeat in the budget delay.

Aside from infrastructure investments, Dominguez said the DOF is also banking on the passage of the remaining packages of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) to help meet its goal of achieving high and inclusive growth.

“The passage of the remaining tax reform packages and other economic reforms will help us secure the A-minus credit rating within the next two years and achieve our 14 percent poverty target by 2022,” Dominguez said.

He said the Duterte administration is also seeking the approval of the amendments to the Public Service Act, the Foreign Investments Act, and the Retail Trade Act to ease restrictions on foreign participation in local businesses.

“These reforms will further open up the economy to foreign investments and create more and better jobs. Overall, the reforms will also lower prices and improve the quality of products and services in the market,” he said.

The finance chief said the government would also push through with the full implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law this year.

He said that with rice tariff, revenue expected to exceed P10 billion, the government would be able to provide more support to farmers, including the distribution of individual titles to land reform beneficiaries, and improve the productivity of the agriculture sector.

According to data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), infrastructure spending in 2018 reached P886.2 billion, equivalent to 5.1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

By Mary Grace Padin
Published Spet 16, 2019