Pernia: Philippines’ Infrastructure Build Won’t Depend on China

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Euromoney, November 2018

The Philippines’ Build Build Build infrastructure drive is one of the most ambitious in the region: 75 priority projects, more than 4,000 others under assessment, and costs approaching $200 billion.

Getting it under way successfully may transform the country’s approach to investment and markets.

Ernesto Pernia, the former Asian Development Bank (ADB) economist who now serves as secretary of socioeconomic planning for the Philippines, says that the average spending on infrastructure has gone from 2.6% of GDP during the previous Aquino administration to 3.8% in 2017, and 4.5% to 4.8% in 2018. “Then it will ratchet up even further to about 7% by the end of this administration in 2022,” he tells Euromoney on the sidelines of the IMF annual meeting in Bali.

It’s one thing to say this, but the Duterte administration is certainly not the first to do so. Why is it any better equipped to deliver than those who have tried before?

“Well, we have better fiscal space now,” Pernia says. “Revenue generation has been higher, and also we have offers of official development assistance from at least three countries.”

The three he’s referring to don’t include the US, a story in itself: he means Japan, South Korea and China.

“[Beyond that], it really is the political will and the determination to arrest this infrastructure deficit which has been maintained for some time,” says Pernia. “The public have been left behind in terms of infrastructure development.”

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Chris Wright
Chris Wright
Chris is a journalist specialising in business and financial journalism across Asia, Australia and the Middle East. He is Asia editor for Euromoney magazine and has written for publications including the Financial Times, Institutional Investor, Forbes, Asiamoney, the Australian Financial Review, Discovery Channel Magazine, Qantas: The Australian Way and BRW. He is the author of No More Worlds to Conquer, published by HarperCollins.

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