No underspending in government — DBM
Mary Grace Padin (The Philippine Star) - December 6, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) yesterday debunked the claims of some lawmakers that there was massive underspending under the Duterte administration, adding that the government was, in fact, spending ahead of program this year.

In a press briefing, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the Duterte administration has gradually eliminated the problem of underspending in government through the implementation of budget reforms.

 “There is no underspending to speak of,” Diokno said, adding that “the government is ahead in its disbursements. In fact, we are slightly overspending.”

Underspending is defined as the difference between the disbursements programmed by the Development Budget Coordination Committee from what was actually spent by the government.

Citing DBM data, Diokno said the annual underspending rate has improved from 13.3 percent in 2014 and 12.8 percent in 2015 to 2.9 percent in 2017.

 “In fact, upon assumption of the Duterte administration halfway through 2016, there was an immediate improvement in government spending as underspending was cut to 3.6 percent,” he said.

From January to September, government disbursements reached P2.49 trillion, 2.6 percent or P62.6 billion above the P2.427 billion programmed during the period.

Diokno said the government in the first nine months overspent as it front-loaded and fast-tracked the implementation of programs, including those left behind by the previous administration.

“This improved rate of spending indicates quicker delivery of programs in health, education, and poverty-reduction and the faster implementation and completion of public infrastructure projects,” the budget chief said.

Going forward, Diokno once again gave assurance that the government would not exceed its fiscal deficit ceiling of three percent of gross domestic product despite the slight overspending.

He said disbursements are expected to normalize within the fourth quarter as the government cannot spend more than what Congress has authorized.

On the other hand, the secretary warned that the Congress’ failure to approve the 2019 national budget before the end of the year would drag the government’s efforts to improve budget utilization and eliminate underspending, resulting in the delay of public services.

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