Red tape, graft threaten ‘golden age of infrastructure’

The Philippines' desperate need for airports and trains can be dramatically solved by the government's  “golden age of infrastructure” program but the presence of red tape and other perennial problems threatens this $170-billion infra plan, leading Saudi Arabian English Newspaper Arab News reported today. 

In an article, the middle east newspaper predicted the Philippines infrastructure spending to reach 7.2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2022 if the current administration's plan comes to fruition.  

“Financing is the least of the problems,” the Arab news said citing transport and infrastructure consultant Rene Santiago. Santiago recently disclosed to the world's third largest news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the country has enough government funds plus cashed-up local businesses and eager foreign investors.

“The biggest obstacle is the implementation capacity of the government infrastructure agencies.” Santiago added. Another major issue is corruption which typically results to 10 to 30 percent loss of an infrastructure project’s cost, according to Vincent Lazatin, executive director of the Transparency and Accountability Network (TAN) in Manila.

Lazatin warned that infrastructure projects financed by foreign partners would also be vulnerable to corruption. “It is in the negotiation process (between the Philippines and the donor nation) that deals can be made that are off the books,” Lazatin said.

The Philippine government has made China one of his top targets for loans and investments. He visited Beijing last year and said he returned with commitments for $15 billion worth of projects. Acknowledging this concern, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said at an economic forum last month tried to ease investors confidence in the country.

“We will try to make sure these projects are going to be corruption-free,” Ambassador Zhao said. 


Arab News and Agence France-Presse (AFP)