Philippines looks to external finance to fund deficit and infrastructure projects

11 Feb 21

The Philippines hopes to secure $23.7bn in financing from external sources in 2021, to bridge its budget deficit and provide funds for “priority projects”, the Department of Finance has said.

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Philippine infrastructure

A port in the Philippines. Image © iStock

This will include $7.7bn in loans and grants from multilateral institutions, $10.5bn from bilateral lenders and $5.5bn from the commercial markets.

Of this, around one-third will be used for the deficit, with the rest set to finance project spending.

The total for this year will be nearly 40% higher than the $17bn the government raised in 2020 – itself a large increase on the previous year.

“Because of a higher emergency funding requirement in light of Covid-19, the amount of external financing contracted in 2020 increased by 75.43% year-on-year,” said finance undersecretary Mark Dennis Joven.

“This also represents an overall 33% expansion of the external borrowing programme from 2016 to 2020.”

Joven said the government has maintained a “bias towards cheaper and multilateral loans”, because those loans can be used more flexibly than grants.

The Philippines has been ramping up public infrastructure spending in recent years.

In 2021, the government will spend 6.1% of GDP on infrastructure, whereas between 2011 and 2016 it spent just 3% of GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The National Economic Development Authority listed 104 flagship projects in August, with most of them being funded by both the government and the private sector, primarily through public-private partnerships.

These included solar power plants, bridges connecting some of the country’s many islands, and transport links including airports, rail, subways and roads.

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