Out-of-school youth eyed for government infra projects
Prinz Magtulis (The Philippine Star) - August 17, 2016 - 12:00am

Mostly in rebel-held areas

MANILA, Philippines – The government may resort to hiring out-of-school youth to form large groups of contractors tagged to speed up public spending, especially in rebel-infested areas which the Duterte administration aims to penetrate.

After unveiling a higher budget deficit under its proposed P3.35-trillion budget next year, the new administration wants to make sure agencies do not underspend to the detriment of economic growth.

“In the past, private contractors are afraid to go into rebel-infested areas because of the conflict. Our modality here is to make it a government-to-government transaction,” Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told The STAR in an interview.

“We will create engineering brigades, we will buy equipment for them, and they will be the one to build the infrastructure,” Diokno said.

The proposal, which will put up to 1,200 people per group under the Philippine Army, will occupy areas such as in Mindanao, where rebels are still trying to finalize a new peace pact with President Duterte.

In that particular area, Diokno said project progress would be monitored by no less than the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process.

“Projects from school buildings to farm-to-market roads will be undertaken by these brigades, which in a way will shorten the contracting process because there is no private sector involved,” Diokno said.

Diokno said these brigades would be composed not only of engineers, but also by common people such as out-of-school youth who would be hired and trained by the government.

In a way, Diokno said it would also tackle unemployment, which at 6.1 percent as of April remains one of Southeast Asia’s highest.

“We will have them trained by TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authroity) and then supervise them under the army. Let’s say we employ them for three years, after that they may be able to get hired,” Diokno said.

Allocations for the said brigades may be sourced from unprogrammed funds for new personnel worth P96.10 billion in 2017.

Underspending in the previous administration has been blamed during the time the economy slowed in 2011 and 2013. As of the first quarter, the economy expanded 6.9 percent and Diokno expects a similar performance for the April-June period.

Despite strong growth, however, more than a quarter of Filipinos remained poor and Duterte’s economic team vowed to spread the prosperity outside of Metro Manila.

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