2023 June 15
Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman
MANILA – The Philippines is heading in the right direction to attain its agenda for prosperity, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman told the Singaporean business community as she enticed them to invest in the country.
During the second Philippine Economic Briefing (PEB) in Singapore, Pangandaman noted that the Marcos administration’s priority expenditures are aligned with the eight-point socioeconomic agenda and cater to the objectives under the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028.
“Today, we bring you good news from the Philippines. We remain on track with our Agenda for Prosperity in spite of global headwinds and the challenges of economic recovery after the pandemic lockdowns,” Pangandaman said.
“And so, we invite you to become our partner as we build an inclusive and sustainable economy that would not only uplift every individual, family and business in the Philippines but would benefit the world and generations to come. The time to invest in the Philippines is now,” she added.
Pangandaman also enumerated the Marcos government’s priority sectors that would contribute to the revitalization of the Philippine economy.
Determined to make agriculture “a driving force for growth and the main source of food security,” the current administration gave the agriculture and agrarian reform sector a budgetary boost of around 29 percent from its previous year’s allocation to improve productivity and re-establish the Philippines as the top exporter of agricultural products, Pangandaman said.
She added that the infrastructure spending was maintained at 5 to 6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) set in the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework.
“This was allocated USD23.9 billion or 25.3 percent of the national budget and equivalent to 5.5 percent of GDP,” she said, stressing the importance of infrastructure spending to sustain the country’s growth momentum, considering that infrastructure is the “backbone of the economy.”
“The bulk of the infrastructure budget is intended for the development of physical infrastructure aimed at improving physical connectivity throughout the country through the construction of accessible road networks, railways, buildings, and flood control infrastructure, among others,” Pangandaman added.
Pangandaman said budgetary support was also provided for social infrastructure development, as well as for irrigation systems and reforestation projects.
She added that the government, acknowledging the importance of sustainable economic growth, raised the budget for climate change adaptation and mitigation measures by about 60 percent compared to the previous year’s allocation.
“This will include investments in water sufficiency and renewable energy infrastructure, as well as alternative resources,” Pangandaman said.
Pangandaman said the proposed 2024 budget will prioritize “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects, investments in human capital development, and sustainable agriculture and food security for the continuity and sustainability of gains from this year’s priority programs.
To complement the priority programs, the government is pursuing key structural reforms and introducing fresh initiatives that promote sound fiscal management, a green economy, and a more efficient and lean bureaucracy, Pangandaman said.
To ensure that the Philippines becomes a “viable investment destination,” Pangandaman said the Marcos administration is keen on improving the country’s digital infrastructure, allocating around USD434.3-million funds to accelerate the digital transformation.
Pangandaman noted the issuance of Executive Order (EO) 29 this month to mandate the full adoption of the Integrated Financial Management Information System in government agencies to ensure the efficient delivery of quality services to the public.
She said EO 29 complements EO 170 issued in 2022 which directs the adoption of digital payments for government disbursements and collections.
“Here’s more good news—we are going digital,” Pangandaman said. “These twin EOs are big strides towards bureaucratic efficiency, encouraging the digitalization of government transactions. And soon, we hope to also pass the Progressive Budgeting for Better and Modernized Governance Bill the institutionalization of Public Financial Management reforms such as the Cash Budgeting System.”
Pangandaman said the government is also working on building a “more agile, efficient, and responsive” government workforce through the National Government Rightsizing Program, which is intended to minimize and eliminate overlaps and duplication of functions and reduce costs, processing time, and other regulatory requirements in public transactions.
Maharika Investment Fund (MIF)
Pangandaman also briefed the Singaporean business leaders about the Congress’ approval of a bill creating the proposed MIF, which is envisioned as the Philippines’ first ever Sovereign Wealth Fund, the Maharlika Investment Fund.
She said the Marcos administration expects the launching of the MIF before yearend.
“We are really looking forward to seeing this boost economic development through strategic and profitable investments in infrastructure and other key sectors…with your investments, of course. As you can see, the Philippines is back in business and means business,” Pangandaman said.
“The Philippines used to be the ‘Darling of Southeast Asia.’ I am certain that with your investments and support, the Philippines will not only be the darling but also the ‘Sweetheart of Asia.’ So, we look forward to ‘Passion Made Possible’ in the Philippines,” she added.
Singapore is one of the top sources of Foreign Direct Investments in the Philippines.
The first PEB Singapore resulted in USD6.5 billion worth of investment pledges, topped by investment in the transportation sector for the manufacturing of electronic tricycles valued at USD5 billion.
The investment commitments also include investment in renewable energy through floating solar panels generating energy to power communities, amounting to USD1.2 billion.
Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos (PNA)