Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday cautioned the Arroyo administration against early election spending in the guise of economic pump-priming after the government released dismal first quarter economic figures.
"The trend emerging is an alarming one, where we might see the administration accelerating public spending to boost the economy in a bid to 'arrest' the falling growth rate. This scenario can be used to justify early election spending," Escudero said.
The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) announced Thursday dismal first quarter figures which put the economy's growth rate at 0.4 percent, raising fears of an impending recession.
Yesterday, the New York-based economic think-tank Global Source said the Philippines' first quarter economic performance was the worst since the recession in the mid-1980s, and leading economic indicators point to continued weakness.
"While we acknowledge the need for the administration to get its act together and address the economic crisis, the response should be carefully calibrated. Stimulus spending in infrastructure, for instance, should be focused on vital sectors like services and agriculture," Escudero said.
He said stimulus spending should not be based on political interests but on the genuine desire to spur the economy through job generation, higher consumer spending, and long-term growth.
Escudero said stimulus spending – especially in the countryside – should be prioritized to meet the objectives of stimulus spending.
"Pump-priming should be based on generating growth amid the economic slowdown and not on political interests. To do so would be electioneering. This is illegal and immoral, he said.
"Above all, the administration must implement its stimulus spending program under the blanket of total transparency. None of this public spending must be used for political campaigning or electioneering," Escudero added.
The opposition senator called on the government to use stimulus money for high-growth sectors such as tourism and business process outsourcing.
"Stimulus spending in infrastructure should be made with long-term growth in mind and not merely to create jobs. We don't want to see white elephants or useless projects when the economic crisis blows over," Escudero said.