Speed up gov't spending to boost PH's credit outlook — senators

Published July 13, 2021, 8:29 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

A speedy release and spending of government appropriations could boost the Philippines’ credit outlook, senators said on Tuesday, July 13.

Senate of the Philippines (Senate PRIB)

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the downgrading of the Philippines’ credit outlook to negative was “unfortunate but expected”, noting how the country has addressed the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our response to covid has not been ideal. Our vaccination program is much behind our target to inoculate 70 [million] Filipinos with two doses this year,” Recto said in a text message.

He said recovery has been “[too] slow”, blaming the withholding of Bayanihan funds and the allocations under the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

“Hope gov[ernmen]t acts swiftly and release funds needed to fight COVID[-19] and to get people back to work,” Recto said.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara also gave a similar observation, saying the latest credit rating outlook was “definitely cause for concern.”

The government, he said, must lead the country to recovery and help the private sector amid the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Senate finance committee chairman called for a “more robust public sector spending starting with the 2021 budget implementation and fast tracking any applications of the private sector that are pending with any government agencies.”

“We are dependent on the vaccine rollout for our recovery but there are ways to speed this up if all hands are on deck, so to speak,” Angara said.

London-based credit-rater Fitch Ratings has reversed the Philippines’ outlook from “stable” to a “negative” following the COVID-19 pandemic, which it said affected the country’s policy making as well as economic and fiscal out-turns.

Still, the country maintained its “BBB” credit rating.

Earlier, senators lamented the 2020 budget appropriations marked as “For Later Release” by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), reportedly reaching to ₱160 billion.

They said the amount could have been used to pump prime the economy amid the pandemic.