By Bianca Cuaresma, March 18 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to ABS-CBN News

THE government is losing the opportunity to spend P500 million a day for productive activities such as education, health care, infrastructure and job creation with every week that the government is forced to operate on a reenacted budget, the Department of Finance said.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III called on the members of the legislature to break their impasse on the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) soon, as it has an adverse impact on the local economy’s spending numbers.

“For the first quarter of the year, the fact that we did not have the budget that we presented meant that we had P46 billion less to spend in the first 90 days,” Dominguez said during a recent press briefing.

“Now, if you divide P46 billion into 90 days, that’s half a billion pesos a day that we are not spending to create jobs, that we are not spending to improve the infrastructure, that we are not spending for better health care, better education,” he added.

The finance secretary said the budget will have to be approved at the soonest, given that it would still take about a month after its transmittal to Malacañang—and its subsequent enactment into law by President Duterte—for this year’s national budget program to take effect.

After Malacañang receives the GAB, Dominguez said it would take the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) a few days at the least to go over the transmitted document, after which the President will review it as well before signing it into law.

Dominguez explained that the government is also losing the opportunity to front-load spending for infrastructure-modernization projects, as fast-track construction only works during the dry season.

“Given the weather conditions, given the government procurement systems, it’s really going to be very difficult to catch up,” Dominguez said.  “That’s why it’s so critical and so sad that we missed the best time to start construction projects.”

The Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) earlier said that the local economic growth will be reduced by 0.7 to 0.9 percentage points if the budget is reenacted until April 2019; 1.4 to 1.9 ppt if until August 2019; and 2.1 to 2.8 ppt under a full year of reenacted budget.

“We therefore urge Congress to transmit the 2019 national budget at the soonest possible time to Malacañang so the government can sustain its investments on development priorities, namely public infrastructure and social services,” the DBCC said in a statement released after its Wednesday meeting.

“The longer the budget impasse lasts, the larger the adverse effect to the Philippine economy and its people,” it added.