MANILA -- The Philippines reversed 12 years of underspending in 2018 and exceeded its deficit goal "slightly," driven by spending on public infrastructure and personnel services, outgoing Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Wednesday.
Actual disbursements in 2018 totaled P3.4 trillion, higher than the programmed P3.37 trillion, said Diokno, who was recently appointed Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor.
Infrastructure spending reached P886.2 billion, higher than the P868.6 billion target and equivalent to 5.1 percent of gross domestic product, Diokno said.
The budget deficit in 2018 was equivalent to 3.2 percent of GDP, but this "should not be a concern" because it was driven by infrastructure, he said.
"Underspending is a thing of the past," Diokno said.
"This reverses 12 straight years of underspending where actual disbursement fell short of the program," he said. The government overspent "slightly" in 2018, he said.
Diokno, who served as President Rodrigo Duterte's budget secretary since the start of his administration in 2016, sought to cure underspending that has weighed on growth during the Aquino administration.
Duterte set out to build P8 trillion in new infrastructure under his "Build, Build, Build" program, which includes Metro Manila's first subway.