Private sector seeks clearer post-infra strategy

More than a year since the administration promised a golden era of infrastructure, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) wants to know what comes after these big-ticket items are put up, noting that the ambitious scheme should “not only decongest traffic” but bring in job-creating industries as well.

PCCI president George Barcelon told reporters on the sidelines of the second Sulong Pilipinas forum that the country’s biggest umbrella organization of businesses wanted to hear from the economic managers a plan that would include the socioeconomic benefits attached to the infrastructure push.

“After this infrastructure is done, what are the socioeconomic benefits? That has to be planned out now. You have a train going from point A to point B. But what are the job-creating industries that would take advantage of this infrastructure (boom)? That has to be part of the master plan,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

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Under the “Build, Build, Build” initiative, more than P8 trillion will be spent by the Duterte administration during its six-year term so that the share of infrastructure spending in the gross domestic product (GDP) will rise from 5.3 percent this year to 7.4 percent in 2022.

This plan has so far won the support of many in the business community, but some raised reservations after the government decided on a hybrid approach instead of the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.

Economic managers decided on a hybrid plan wherein the public sector will build the infrastructure and the private sector will be allowed to bid for the operation and maintenance contract.

In previous private forums, Barcelon said that the chamber voiced its eagerness to hear more about the socioeconomic benefits attached to this infrastructure boost, but noted that they were “not seeing too much of it yet.” He, however, said that that he was “more than confident” that it was in the works.

Named the “Philippine Development Forum: Sulong Pilipinas 2017,” the event yesterday marked the second year of the consultative workshop that began in 2016 in order to facilitate a dialogue between business leaders and economic managers.

Barcelon said that this would be held on a yearly basis to “revalidate and recalibrate” the key points discussed, after the first Sulong Pilipinas came up with 10 recommendations for the government.

While PCCI is generally supportive of the Duterte administration’s programs, Barcelon said that some things were “missed out,” citing as an example the slow push of the development in the information and technology sector outside of Metro Manila.

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