MANILA – Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, on Monday stressed the need for an “enhanced Build, Build, Build” to keep the economy afloat amid the downturn of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a brief note on structural stimulus tools, Salceda said infrastructure is one of the best public investments during an economic crisis because it induces both consumption and investment.
Salceda noted that the economic multiplier of infrastructure can be as high as 3.66, while its Year 1 multiplier can be as high as 1.02, suggesting that every peso spent on infrastructure yields an additional peso for consumption and investment.
“We estimate that every PHP200 billion in infrastructure can create up to 463,000 jobs on the year it is spent,” he said as he warned that cutting infrastructure spending could lead to job losses.
“As I said before, speed is your friend, delay is your enemy — in economics and in pandemic response. So we must prioritize mainly on the basis of speed,” Salceda said.
Salceda proposed a framework for infrastructure as stimulus wherein prioritization criteria shall be exercised in the implementation of infrastructure projects: 1) high economic value; 2) can be completed within President Rodrigo Duterte’s term; 3) high potential for job creation.
He also stressed the need for sectoral focus of “Build, Build, Build”, particularly on health, education, and creative infrastructure.
He said the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis should serve as an opportunity for the Philippines to assess the preparedness of its health care system for universal health care during the most difficult health conditions.
“Covid-19 has been the first serious test for our hospitals and medical facilities after the passage of the Universal Health Care Law. We should assess where public medical facilities were unable to meet the full demands of Covid-19, and how these hospitals can be improved,” he said.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has vowed to fast-track the passage of the proposed Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA), which aims to help transition the economy to a post-Covid-19 scenario, ensure business continuity, retain and create jobs, and protect poor families and other vulnerable sectors.
The proposed PESA provides additional funding of PHP650 billion for the “Build, Build, Build” program so that it could be expanded to cover projects in universal health care, education, and food security.
These include projects for the construction, development, improvement or renovation of modern health facilities that will complement the Universal Health Care Law and national preparedness for surges in demand for pandemics; public-school facilities to create “Schools for the Future,” or schools geared towards competitiveness in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
It would also fund infrastructure supportive of creative industries, and infrastructure for the agri-fishery industry geared towards food security and ensuring public health and nutrition. (PNA)