NEDA eyes 6 big infra project rollouts, 8% GDP growth in 2018

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos can look forward to some much-awaited infrastructure projects finally breaking ground in 2018, and bringing even stronger economic growth, if the expectations of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) hold true.

Next year is when the effects of the Build, Build, Build program are expected to take shape. According to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Filipinos can expect the rollout of half a dozen major projects within the next few months.

These projects include the Clark International Airport expansion which will break gound next week, the Metro Manila Subway Project, the extension of the Malolos-Clark Railway Project, and Phase 1 of the Mindanao Railway Project which would encompass the Tagum-Davao-Digos Segment.

Non-transport projects set for rollout next year include the Kaliwa Dam Project and the Cavite Industrial Area Flood Risk Management Project.

Beyond those set for rollout, NEDA is eyeing 26 more projects, including 3 projects that could be approved before the end of the year for a total of P1 trillion.

By comparison, NEDA has gotten 20 projects approved in 2017.

The government is also set to raise its public spending from 5.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) to 6.2% next year.

But the government hit a bit of a snag since the target revenue from the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill has gone down. The tax reform bill is one of the sources for infrastructure funding.

While the measure is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature, it has a new target revenue of P130 billion from the original estimate of P167 billion.

Pernia, however, said the government's economic managers have already factored this in.

"We have already anticipated that there would be reductions from earlier expected revenue generation the reform would bring. We will have to do some borrowing, selling bonds, and the DOF (Department of Finance) is already planning Panda. These things have all been taken into account in our revenue and financing plans," he said.

The NEDA chief is also adamant that the country has the capacity to roll out major projects almost simultaneously.

"I think the implementation departments are prepared to bring labor and material and engineering design. We are also going to advertise jobs that are going to be available next year and I'm sure they will be more attractive than normal jobs because they will be 24 hours, 7 days a week so there will be many job opportunities," he added.

Spurring growth

NEDA noted that this surge in spending would also provide a big boost to next year's economic growth. The government is aiming for a 7% to 8% increase in GDP for 2018.

Pernia is similarly optimistic that there would be a strong showing in the 4th quarter of 2017, following better than expected results in the 3rd quarter.

"I think Q4 will hit 7% growth or a bit high.... To hit 8% full-year growth, however, we need 8% growth for the 4th quarter which would be hard," Pernia said, adding that GDP growth in the range of 6.8% or 6.9% was more reasonable.

The government's official target range for this year remains between 6.5% and 7.5%. – Rappler.com