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Philippines seeks approval for budget, Q2 spending to pick up

[MANILA] The Philippine government asked Congress on Tuesday to approve its record 3 trillion peso (S$90 billion) proposed national budget for 2016 amid signs of a pick-up in spending.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said efforts to reverse months of underspending were beginning to bear fruit with expenditures in the second quarter likely to have registered a 12.4 per cent jump from last year.

That was also higher than the 4.5 per cent annual rise in first quarter spending, Mr Abad said. "We have already laid down measures to help agencies make optimal use of their allocations so that they can focus on the prompt delivery of public services," Mr Abad told reporters at a media briefing.

Slow government spending, blamed on a corruption scandal and slow-moving bureaucracy, was behind the sharp slide in first quarter economic growth.

Questions remain on the government's ability to meet its spending goals, making this year's 7-8 per cent GDP target look ambitious.

On top of this year's 2.6 trillion peso budget, the government has yet to use unspent funds from previous annual budgets amounting to 278 billion pesos.

The 2016 budget, which will boost spending by 15.2 per cent, will fund a 29 per cent increase in infrastructure spending, to help the economy sustain a 7-8 per cent growth trajectory.

Mr Abad said the pace of government spending should get a boost next year given that 2016 is an election year and public officials would want to be able to deliver projects and maximise their allocations.

To finance the expected budget shortfall of 309 billion pesos in 2016, the government plans to borrow 674.8 billion pesos from domestic and foreign creditors, lower than an initial plan of 747.8 billion pesos, Mr Abad said.