MANILA—The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the government is stepping up its efforts to remove constraints to inclusive development by allocating PhP399 billion for public infrastructure projects in 2014. 

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan noted that this amount is 35-percent more than the PhP295 billion appropriated this year for infrastructure development. 

“The dramatic surge in infrastructure spending next year will lower the cost of transporting goods and people, support agricultural productivity, reduce risks from disasters, and generate economic investments and employment. The proposed projects will ultimately benefit the poor and vulnerable sectors,” said Balisacan. 

Balisacan said most of these projects will support the government’s Transport Infrastructure Development Program, which is a PhP180-billion convergence initiative led by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and supported by the Departments of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Agriculture (DA), Science and Technology (DOST), and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). 

“The overall allocation of PhP399 billion is about three percent of our gross domestic product (GDP) target for 2014. By 2016, planned infrastructure spending will amount to about PhP820 billion, or approximately five percent of GDP,” said Balisacan, who is also NEDA Director-General. 

As the government prepares to meet the greater demand for sound and economically viable projects in the coming years, Balisacan said the proposed 2014 national budget earmarked a PhP400-million special purpose fund for the preparation of feasibility studies on infrastructure. 

“Because of the urgency to implement infrastructure projects, we need to speed up the project cycle without sacrificing quality. We want the government to have the flexibility to initiate the preparation of feasibility studies, so we can accelerate project implementation,” said Balisacan. 

He added, “With this fund, we need not depend on donor-driven feasibility studies. We can ultimately find the cheapest source of financing that best serves the interest of the Philippine government.” 

Balisacan cited the 2012 Official Development Assistance (ODA) Portfolio Review Report, which identified start-up delays and high cost overruns as among key issues in implementing ODA-funded projects. NEDA submitted the Report to Congress in June this year. 

“The PhP400 million feasibility studies fund can actually save the government money,” Balisacan said. 

The NEDA official, however, said the special purpose fund is intended only for projects listed in the government’s Public Investment Program (PIP) and excludes those for public-private partnership (PPP) implementation, as stated in the special provisions of the proposed 2014 budget. 

“Since the NEDA will administer the fund, we will be limiting it to high-priority projects that we think will have the most impact on inclusive growth and development. We will soon submit a list to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Finance,” Balisacan said. 

Last week, the Development Budget Coordination Committee—an interagency committee under the NEDA Board—held a briefing on the proposed 2014 national budget to the House Committee on Appropriations. Balisacan attended the meeting, together with DBCC Chair and DBM Secretary Florencio Abad, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr., and other officials.