Increased gov’t spending to spur economic growth - ECOP chief

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

August 11, 2023, 3:18 pm

MANILA — Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. on Friday emphasized the need to ramp up government spending to propel economic growth.

During the Laging Handa briefing, Ortiz-Luis said the government should boost spending to meet its target growth rate of 6 percent to 7 percent for 2023.

Ortiz-Luis said the country needs to catch up, given that the Philippine economy grew by 4.3 percent from April to June 2023 or below the target of 6 percent to 7 percent and slower than the 6.4 percent in the first quarter.

“Between that ‘yung target dito sa period na ‘to. Hindi natin na-meet ‘yun. Konting-konti lang umangat ‘yung so kailangan maghabol tayo (Between that is the target for this period. We did not meet that. It did not increase that much, so we have to catch up," he said.

 “Ako ang nakikita ko isang pinakamalaking kakulangan ‘yung spending ng gobyerno. Iyong mga budget nung mga departamento na hindi nagagaasta, understandable naman kasi ‘yung mga tao, bagong administration, bagong mga tao, nag-aaral pa sila, hindi pa nila alam kung paano gamitin ‘yung mga pera. Pero siguro kailangan bilisan nila ‘yung paggamit ng mga budget (I see the government's spending as the biggest shortcoming. It is understandable that the respective funds of the departments that are not spent because the people under the new administration are still studying, they do not yet know how to use the money. But perhaps, they need to accelerate the spending of budget),” he added.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s economic managers on Thursday said the government would accelerate spending in the coming quarters to allow the country to recover its growth momentum.

The economic team is composed of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority Director General Arsenio Balisacan, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman and Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

In a circular letter issued Aug. 9, Pangandaman directed government agencies to submit catch-up plans following the below-programmed spending in the first half of 2023.

The directive was issued after data from the Bureau of the Treasury showed that government spending in the first six months of this year reached PHP2.411 trillion, which is 6.6 percent or PHP170.5 billion below the PHP2.582 trillion programmed for the period.

Main drivers of employment

Meantime, Ortiz-Luis said Marcos’ foreign trips and the economic reopening serve as the main drivers of the increasing employment rate in the country -- 95.5 percent in June.

Construction, agriculture, administrative and food services, and public administration and defense on the government side are among the industries that generated more jobs, he said.

“Unang-una talaga tuloy-tuloy ‘yung pag-alis natin doon sa pandemic era at tuloy-tuloy ang pag-hire. Ang gobyerno naman tuloy-tuloy ang pag-encourage ng investment, at maraming byahe ni Presidente. Hindi naman inaasahan na marami talagang i-uuwing investors at ‘yun ay tuluy-tuloy (First of all, we continue to stay out of the pandemic and open more jobs. The government continues to encourage investments, and the President travels a lot. It is not expected that there will be many investors and that becomes a trend now),” he said, noting the marked increase in Board of Investments and Philippine Economic Zone Authority registrations.

“Sa katunayan, sa Philippine Chamber of Commerce (and Industry) halos every week mayroon kaming mga delegation na ini-entertain na nagtatanong, naghahanap ng ka-partner at kung ang mapapasukan nilang negosyo dahil sa mga byahe ni Presidente (In fact, at the Philippine Chamber of Commerce [and Industry], we entertain almost every week the delegations making inquiries, looking for partners and asking what business they could enter following the President's overseas trips),” he added.

To open more opportunities for Filipinos, Ortiz-Luis said ECOP has been carrying out an advocacy campaign and forged an agreement with the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Trade and Industry, manufacturers, business process outsourcing, and the tourism industry to create 1 million jobs. (PNA)