By Ben O. de Vera, September 1, 2022; Philippine Daily Inquirer

President Marcos’ economic managers have slightly downscaled their infrastructure spending ambitions for the next six years as more funds had to be set aside for agriculture, health and other priority sectors, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said on Wednesday.

Due to the limited fiscal space wrought by the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, Pangandaman said in a text message that public-private partnerships would be tapped more for infrastructure financing.

Documents on Wednesday showed that the Cabinet-level Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) approved last Aug. 19 smaller yearly public infrastructure expenditures from 2023 to 2028, compared to the Marcos administration’s more ambitious medium-term targets back in July.

The 2023 infrastructure program, which included national government disbursements, subsidy and equity to state-run corporations, as well as transfers to local government units, was cut to P1.18 trillion or 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from P1.28 trillion (5.4 percent of GDP) previously.

Next year’s infrastructure spending will be smaller than the P1.19 trillion set aside for this year, equivalent to 5.5 percent of GDP.

For 2024, the infrastructure disbursements were estimated at P1.29 trillion (5 percent of GDP), down from P1.39 trillion (5.4 percent of GDP) previously; for 2025, P1.42 trillion (5 percent of GDP), down from P1.51 trillion (5.3 percent of GDP); for 2026, P1.64 trillion (5.3 percent of GDP), down from P1.71 trillion (5.5 percent of GDP); and for 2027, P1.95 trillion (5.7 percent of GDP), down from P2 trillion (5.8 percent of GDP).

As for 2028—or the year President Marcos steps down—total planned infrastructure spending was reduced by the DBCC to P2.33 trillion (6.2 percent of GDP) from P2.38 trillion (6.3 percent of GDP) previously.

For next year, Pangandaman said “the 5-percent of GDP infrastructure program is already based on the fiscal year 2023 national expenditure program, as approved by the President.”

“This already accounted for the requirements of other priority sectors such as the programs of the Department of Agriculture; the health insurance program of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.; the rice buffer-stocking program of the National Food Authority; and provision for the national government rightsizing program and higher requirements for the creation and filling-up of positions,” Pangandaman said.