While infrastructure spending took a backseat to big financing needs for COVID-19 response this year, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said big-ticket projects will be allocated a bigger budget for next year to fast-track economic recovery post-pandemic.

In a statement, the DBM said the proposed P4.335-trillion 2021 national budget will set aside P1.131 trillion in cash, equivalent to 5.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), for next year’s public infrastructure program.

The higher infrastructure budget for 2021 formed part of the government’s plan to “push the completion of a number of major flagship projects for 2021 and 2022,” referring to those included in the ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program.

“This upward push of the infrastructure program is expected to create some 140,000 to 220,000 additional jobs through direct and indirect employment,” the DBM said.

Last month, the Cabinet-level Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) reduced the infrastructure spending program for 2020 to P725.1 billion or 3.8 percent of GDP, below the P1.05 trillion spent by the government last year.

But last week, the DBCC slightly increased this year’s programmed infrastructure disbursements to P775.1 billion or 4 percent of GDP “given additional capital investments,” DBM Assistant Secretary Rolando U. Toledo said in a text message on Friday.

The DBM explained that a portion of this year’s infrastructure budget had been reallocated into the budgets for health and social amelioration programs aimed at addressing the socioeconomic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua told a virtual press conference Friday that amid a less-restrictive general community quarantine (GCQ), the government will “restart the most impactful ‘Build, Build, Build’ projects” that would generate more jobs.

On Friday, the government reported that the unemployment rate hit a record-high of 17.7 percent in April, leaving 7.3 million Filipinos jobless at the height of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed in Luzon and other parts of the country to contain the COVID-19 disease.

The Economic Development Cluster (EDC) had set the following criteria for its ongoing review of “Build, Build, Build”: available fiscal space for infrastructure projects from 2020 to 2022; project readiness and implementation capacity of line agencies; economic growth and jobs impact of projects; interest and risk level of the private sector; and inclusion of health and digital economy projects to address emerging needs from COVID-19 and the new normal.


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