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(Photos from L- R) Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President George Barcelon, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and NEDA Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia at the 2017 Global Think Tank Summit held in Yokohama, Japan.

Yokohama, JapanOn May 3, 2017 Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno attended the 2017 Global Think Tank Summit held in Yokohama, Japan. With the theme “Achieving Balanced Growth in Asia and the World for Sustainable Development”, the summit was organized by the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) and the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP). Leading public policy experts, academicians, business leaders, and private sector representatives from across the globe participated in the summit.

        The Global Think Tank Summit discussed prevailing issues confronting Asia and the world, including widening inequality, social instability, protectionist sentiments, decelerating economic growth, environmental degradation, among others, in hopes of formulating inclusive and sustainable solutions.

        In particular, Secretary Diokno attended the breakout session relating high quality infrastructure and sustainable growth. In line with the breakout session, the Budget Secretary shared the trend of public infrastructure provision in the Philippines from 1986 to the present. He mentioned that economic conditions prevented the Philippines from investing heavily in public infrastructure for the past 3 decades.

“[T]he Philippines has not spent more than 3 percent of its GDP for public infrastructure, and it’s not surprising why: the level of public debt was huge; the costs of servicing it was high; and its revenue-to GDP ratio was low. Of course, it did not help that it had a string of fiscal conservatives running its fiscal policy,” said the DBM Secretary.

The many years of underinvestment for public infrastructure has led to an infrastructure gap. Despite the bullish prospects on the Philippine economy, which registered a 6.9 percent GDP growth rate in 2016, its poor and collapsing infrastructure remains to be a constraint to growth.

“The Philippines’ infrastructure indicators consistently result to dismal scores that pull down its overall competitiveness. For overall infrastructure, we lag behind our ASEAN-5 neighbors, especially Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. What is worrisome is that its overall infrastructure rank has steeply declined from 94th in 2009 to 112th in 2017,” said Secretary Diokno.

In response, the Duterte Administration is embarking on an ambitious infrastructure program unmatched in the country’s history, ushering in the “Golden Age of Infrastructure”. “And for this year, the first bold step we took was to appropriate an amount of P847.2 billion, or $17 billion, for infrastructure in the 2017 national budget. This level is equivalent to 5.3 percent of GDP… We will sustain this level of investment such that P8 to P9 trillion, or $160 to $180 billion, will be spent on public infrastructure for the next six years. Likewise, as a share of GDP, infrastructure spending will rise from 5.3 percent in 2017 to as high as 7.4 percent come 2022,” said the Budget Secretary.

Secretary Diokno also briefly discussed tax reform and budget utilization reforms to ensure that the ambitious infrastructure program of the Duterte Administration is appropriately implemented and financed.

In conclusion, Secretary Diokno emphasized that the Philippines has the right ingredients and the right leaders to transform the Philippines into the “Asian Tiger” it is capable of becoming. Hence, it is only a matter of time before the Philippines becomes a better, safer, fairer, more prosperous, and more beautiful country.

For the full text of Secretary Diokno’s speech at the 2017 Global Think Tank Summit, visit:http://www.dbm.gov.ph/?page_id=20136

        To learn more about the Department of Budget and Management, please visitdbm.gov.ph.