Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Arroyo govt’s high-priority projects on hold, says ADB

By DARWIN G. AMOJELAR, The Manila Times Researcher

Due to government’s poor fiscal conditions and uncertain financing mechanisms, several high priority projects reaching advanced stages of preparation in 2004 were put on hold, the Asian Development Bank said.

In response to a query from The Manila Times, Thomas Crouch, ADB country director for the Philippines said these projects were in the water and rural road sectors and coastal resource management. Crouch, however, said project details and costs have yet to be confirmed.

"This refers to several projects which were being processed, but for which financing uncertainty arose due to pressure on the government’s budget. The prudent approach is to delay full processing until the budget situation becomes clear," Crouch said.

"Neither government nor ADB will approve projects which do not meet our jointly-agreed high standards for "quality at entry." In part, this refers to the readiness of approved projects to be implemented, and that requires assured financing resources, among other things," he added.

A new country strategy program (CSP) reflecting current fiscal constraints is under preparation.

The ADB helped government address fiscal imbalances through interventions in the power sector, which the single largest contributor to the consolidated fiscal deficit and largest drain on public sector finances; supported decentralization through the proper management of local government unit (LGU) revenues and expenditures; and developed programs in governance, health systems and financial market regulation.

Project financing and facilities from ADB’s private sector operations will complement these efforts. By improving the local investment climate, long-term partnerships will be established with financially sound and well-managed LGUs to undertake development projects without national government budget support.

The ADB also collaborated with the government, the World Bank and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation to achieve a more manageable portfolio and efficient project implementation. The government and ADB conducted two exercises on portfolio management and performance monitoring and evaluation.

Despite adverse impact on disbursements due to budget constraints, the portfolio showed remarkable improvement in project implementation performance indicators including a significant reduction in undisbursed loan amounts and a reduction in the proportion of projects at risk.

This was achieved by strong collaboration from government oversight agencies and executing agencies and closer supervision and administration by ADB.

In 2004, the ADB-approved loans to the Philippines rose 14 percent to $446 million in 2004 from $189 million in 2003.

In a report released recently, the bank said it approved four loans totaling $446 million. Of the total amount, $213 million were for a health sector development program; private sector projects of $200 million for peso swap and financing, and $33 million for the purchase and resolution of a finance corporation’s portfolio of nonperforming loans.

The ADB also approved $6-million worth of technical assistance grants to support agrarian reform, power sector reforms, infrastructure, basic education, microfinance and small- and medium-enterprises (SMEs), transport, LGU development, and governance.

The Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction also provided a grant of $1.5 million.

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