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Build, Better, More

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has submitted to Congress his first full budget for the fiscal year 2023. The total budget proposed by the new administration is ₱5.268 trillion and was described by DBM Chief Amenah F. Pangandaman as being “proactive and resilient…designed to withstand future risks, challenges and shocks.”



This is an important milestone in the administration of President Bongbong because this budget concretely defines his developmental priorities at least for the year 2023. The members of Congress will now have the opportunity to perform their constitutional duty of scrutinizing the proposed budget by the executive and approving a budget that will allow our country to march towards prosperity even with the current, and future, crises we are facing.



Of great significance to me is the priority given by PBBM’s budget to infrastructure development. During the campaign period and even in his first public speeches, Pres. Marcos, Jr., has vowed to continue the “Build, Build, Build” program of his predecessor, former President Rodrigo Duterte. And true enough, his government has allocated a total of ₱1.196 trillion for infrastructure programs. About ₱718 billion will go to the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) while the Department of Transportation (DOTr) will receive over ₱167 billion. The rest of the budget is spread out across different sectors including tourism, agriculture, health, and education.



The infrastructure budget represents about 5.4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). By comparison, in President Duterte’s first full budget his administration increased the budget for infrastructure to ₱860.7 billion, also around 5.4 percent of the GDP at the time.



Following his State of the Nation Address, I have heard government officials refer to PBBM’s flagship program as the “Build, Better, More” consisting of public infrastructure projects like subways, regional airports, railways and farm-to-market roads. I think this is a big step in the right direction. As I have repeatedly stated, infrastructure development is an integral element of our effort to recover the economic losses we have suffered due to the pandemic as well as the various externalities that continue to put pressure on our domestic economy.



Despite the fiscal pressures facing government, I am glad that PBBM has remained committed to modernizing our public infrastructure. According the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) the target is to spend ₱1.28 trillion (5.4 percent of GDP) in 2023; ₱1.39 trillion (5.4 percent of GDP) in 2024; ₱1.51 trillion (5.3 percent of GDP) in 2025; ₱1.71 trillion (5.5 percent of GDP) in 2026; and, more than ₱2 trillion (5.8 percent of GDP) by 2027.



These, I believe, are achievable targets given the fact that Bongbong’s economic managers have set GDP growth target this year at a modest 6.5-7.5 percent this year and up to eight percent annually from 2023 to 2028. PBBM needs to sustain the gains of the Duterte administration by investing heavily on infrastructure.



Infrastructure is the backbone of a modern economy. Almost all our socio-economic aspirations are tied to a modern infrastructure network. Aside from providing millions of jobs, it also facilitates trade and businesses. It will also solve our horrific traffic problems which have returned following the full reopening of the economy and the return of face-to-face classes in our schools.



I like the focus of the program’s slogan: “Build, Better, More.” Aside from aggressive spending, we need to be smart about where we put our infrastructure money. Aside from roads, highways, bridges and farm-to-market roads, let us prioritize transportation, communications, broadband networks as well as energy infrastructure projects.



Spending more and building smarter is really the only way we can future-proof our economy.




Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar