Senator Win Gatchalian said the government should come up with a strategic catch-up plan that would enable government agencies to spend their budget allocations faster in order to pump prime the economy.
Gatchalian made the call noting that the country’s slower 4.3% economic growth in the second quarter of the year was brought in part by the government’s underspending. Government spending contracted by 7.1% in the second quarter of 2023 from a year earlier.
“It’s forgivable if the headwinds were coming from the outside such as a slowdown in the growth of China or the Ukraine invasion. But looking at the components of our GDP growth, government spending is something that we can control. However, we’re not spending fast enough and it affected our growth,” he bewailed.
“We are talking about increasing the budget by 9% but we cannot even spend as quickly as possible and it affected our growth,” Gatchalian told members of the executive branch’s economic team during a Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) briefing at the Senate on the proposed P5.768 trillion national budget for 2024.
Gatchalian also questioned the government’s plan to catch up on its spending to help propel the domestic economy to grow by at least 6.6% in the second half of the year so that full-year GDP expansion could reach the 6% target.
“This catch-up plan, are these hard commitments by implementing agencies or just loose conversation? Because if it’s a written document, I would like to see that written document,” Gatchalian said.
In response, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman replied that the budget department has already issued a circular directing all government agencies to submit by September 15 this year their respective catch-up plans to address bottlenecks and reach their respective financial targets for the year.
“Submit to us the document so we can push them to spend faster. We want to push the different agencies to implement faster because it’s affecting the entire economy,” he told the Budget Secretary.
Gatchalian also took note of the delay in payments that the government is supposed to make, including payments for state universities and colleges.