June 24, 2020 / 10:17 AM / 13 days ago

Philippines plans record $86 bln 2021 budget for post-pandemic recovery

MANILA, June 24 (Reuters) - The Philippine government is seeking a record 4.3 trillion peso ($85.89 billion) budget for 2021 focused on reviving a coronavirus-hit economy expected this year to shrink for the first time in two decades, a top official said on Wednesday.

The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte faces the enormous task of resuscitating growth and creating jobs in 2021, before his six-year term ends in June of the following year.

The budget proposal, set to be submitted to Congress when it resumes session next month, is 5% higher than this year’s 4.1 trillion pesos.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said the proposal would help the government move past the pandemic and “provide the kind of programmes, activities and projects for our people, especially those who lost their jobs”.

The Southeast Asian country, which used to enjoy one of the world’s fastest economic growth rates before the coronavirus wreaked havoc on global business, is projected to suffer a 2% to 3.4% decline in gross domestic product this year, government officials have said.

Next year’s spending is geared toward further buttressing the healthcare system, ensuring food security, hastening the government’s digital transformation, and helping communities to rebound, according to a budget briefing document.

The proposed budget is separate from a 1.3 trillion peso stimulus bill that the lower house passed early this month, and another stimulus plan under discussion at the Senate.

The country’s economic managers, however, have raised concerns about the stimulus packages proposed by Congress and the absence of excess revenues to fund them. ($1 = 50.0660 Philippine pesos)

Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty

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