GDP  projections  down with  budget  impasse

Published March 17, 2019, 12:48 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON Feb 03, 2019The  national  government  hopes to achieve a full-year Gross Domestic Product (GDP)  growth this 2019 of 6.1 to 6.3 percent,  Socioeconomic Planning Secretary  Ernesto Pernia, chief of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) , said last Wednesday.

The government had  earlier set a growth target of 7 to 8 percent GDP for 2019, with  substantial  increases in government spending under the P3.7-trillion  National Budget for 2019, he said, but  delay in Congress’ approval  of the 2019 budget bill has  meant  that  so many planned  government projects cannot begin.

Infrastructure projects under “Build, Build, Build”  have now been delayed, along with disbursements for the government social services program.  The  government was hoping to create as many  as  180,000 to 240,000 jobs.  Newly hired teachers cannot be paid. Since government spending makes up a substantial part of the GDP,  all these projects now on hold means  the GDP  will not be able to reach  the projected levels this year

If the national government continues to operate  with the reenacted 2018 budget   until next month, April, Secretary Pernia said, the annual GDP growth is expected  to  be  6.1 to 6.3 percent.

If  the  2019 budget is still not  available by August,  the GDP growth is expected  to be 4.9 to 5 percent.

And if the  government is compelled to operate for the entire  year on the reenacted 2018 budget, the GDP may go down to 4.2 to 4.9 percent.

This,  in terms of the GDP,  is the effect of the continued impasse in Congress between the Senate and the House of Representatives over   the 2019 national  budget.  President  Duterte met with the leaders of the two chambers Tuesday night  in Malacanang,  hoping to get them to agree on the final form of the 2019 National Budget, so he could immediately sign it  into law.

But the meeting ended with no agreement, with each  side  continuing to accuse the other of realigning funds for public works projects to benefit  certain districts and  projects of the contending senators and congressmen.  It  is not only between the two chambers; within the House, there is reported  strong disagreement  between the current House leadership and the former one ousted on the day of the President’s State of the Nation Address  in June last year.

March  is fast nearing its end  and that means the year’s first quarter will soon be over. Secretary Pernia has spelled out  the  ill effects  of the budget  delay month by month and quarter by quarter. With  the entire nation’s attention now focused on them, the  members of Congress should  be able to make  the needed compromises to  settle their differences.