MANILA – Selling of government assets is still far from economic managers’ minds even if President Rodrigo R. Duterte has repeatedly announced willingness to do this to provide funds for additional coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response requirements.
“We have not reached the point at which we are considering (the) sale of major government assets,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told journalists in a Viber message Friday.
In his public address aired over the state-owned television network, PTV, Friday, President Duterte reiterated that the last resort to address financial requirements for the program to address the economic and health impact of the Covid-19 global pandemic is to sell government assets like the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), located along Roxas Blvd. in Pasay City.
He said the implementation of some programs for this year has to be suspended because the government needs the budget for Covid-19 response.
“We are making sure, as I’ve said earlier in the previous briefing, that if the funds are not sufficient, we’ll have to borrow. Then if the borrowed money is not enough, then, we have to sell the assets,” he said.
During the same briefing, Dominguez said the government has so far spent about PHP352.7 billion for the Covid-19 response program.
He added part of the budget used for this program came from tax collections but revenue collection is declining, which was earlier traced partly to the postponement of the submission and payment of the annual income tax return (ITR) until April 15.
Part of the financing also came from government savings, as well as the proceeds of loans extended by multilateral agencies like the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB).
“So far, our cash is sufficient but we are constrained by our budget allowance. And that is our problem,” Dominguez said.
This is the reason why the government is prioritizing spending to support the poor and vulnerable households and government’s Build, Build, Build program, he said.
Dominguez said they are not touching funds for the more important infrastructure projects so that once the Covid-19 issue is addressed, the government has the funds to implement its infrastructure program that will create jobs and business opportunities.
The government has so far identified a Covid-19 response program that needs at least PHP1.4 trillion.
Meanwhile, Dominguez said they will revisit the growth target for this year after the President extended the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) and several other areas where Covid-19 cases are high.
Economic managers earlier projected the impact of the global pandemic and the ECQ to result in a zero or negative one-percent growth for the domestic economy this year. (PNA)