Economic managers unveiled yesterday a P300 billion Economic Sustainability Plan for next year that will shield the country from the global economic crisis by boosting consumer spending, government and private investments and extending more direct cash assistance to the poor.
The economic plan and stimulus package will be funded through the national and local budget and private sector investments. It was finalized and approved by President Arroyo during yesterday’s Cabinet meeting at Malacañang.
The P300 billion already includes the P100 billion joint public and private infrastructure program that Mrs. Arroyo earlier announced to spur economic activity in the country.
“It is not a contingency plan, it is not a recovery plan, there is nothing to recover from so it is continuing what we have been doing and stretching every peso in the budget to ensure that we save and create as many jobs as possible,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto told a news briefing at the Palace.
Unlike the US which lost two million jobs and China with 10.2 million jobs, Recto pointed out that the Philippines created 861,000 new jobs and its economy grew by 4.6 percent in the first three quarters of the year.
“It is possible we can move the economy at higher end of target from 3.7 percent to 4.7 percent as long as we put in place the fast tracking of projects that are easy and quick to do,” Recto said.
He said the President has instructed Cabinet members to come up with “easy-to-do” projects that include rehabilitation of roads, hospitals, irrigation facilities and other schemes that have high employment and high local value-added.
“So there is a multiplier effect among the different industries involved, more jobs are safe, secured and created next years as well,” Recto said.
Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. for his part said they prefer “fast-moving off-the-shelf projects like irrigation, farm-to-market roads or those that are quick to implement.”
“We have to implement this on the first six months of the year because if we miss that, they would be hard to implement. We might be pushing for big-ticket projects but we will see them not yet starting by the end of 2009,” Andaya said.
Funding for the infrastructure projects is estimated to cost P200 billion, he added.
Recto, meanwhile said big-ticket projects with no right-of-way problems or engineering issues would continue while funding for projects with implementation problems would be diverted to other projects.
He said the government will make sure the plan of hiring 10,000 additional teachers, 5,000 additional policemen and 3,000 new soldiers will push through full spending of the personnel services budget.
The government will also fully utilize the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) provision in next year’s budget, he said.
“We also decided to increase the budget or work for additional resources for the social protection program, with the conditional cash transfers, doubling that,” Recto said.–Paolo Romero, Philippine Star