Budget deficit narrows in March; goals missed
The government incurred a deficit in March and also missed its expenditure targets as a budget impasse continued to limit its capability to spend.
The P58.409-billion shortfall was narrower than the P76.373 billion posted in February, Treasury bureau data released over the weekend showed. It fell short of the P119.423 billion targeted for the month and was also lower than the P110.69-billion deficit recorded a year earlier.
Government revenues rose by 13.1 percent to P228.918 billion, from P202.360 billion last year, while expenditures fell by 8.2 percent to P287.327 billion from P313.053 billion. A month earlier, revenues rose by 13 percent while expenditures fell by 21 percent.
The latest result led to a first-quarter shortfall of P90.245 billion, 40.6 percent lower compared to the P152.171 billion posted in the comparable 2018 period. It was also 52 percent or P98.108 billion lower than programmed.
The government is targeting a budget deficit of P624 billion or 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) for 2019. Last year’s P558.26-billion shortfall was equivalent to 3.2 percent of GDP.
Reckoned from the start of 2019, revenues were up 11 percent year-on-year at P687.745 billion as of end-March.
Tax and customs collections improved by 11 percent and 9 percent, respectively, National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon said in a report shared by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd with reporters.
She added that non-tax earnings rose by 18 percent to P8.6 billion on the back of higher dividends from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp.
Meanwhile, the “P1.01 billion daily underspending for primary expenditures” resulted in lower-than-programmed state spending in the first three months of the year, de Leon also reported.
January-March expenditures totaled P777.990 billion, 0.78 percent higher than a year ago but P98.308 billion less than the estimated programmed funds of P176.298 billion.
“Looks like we didn’t spend a bit over P1 billion per day versus program,” Dominguez, for his part, said.
“[It] will definitely be a drag to growth,” the Finance chief added when asked for an assessment.
The government has been operating on last year’s P3.767-trillion budget since the start of the year. This means agencies can only spend for items detailed in the 2018 outlay and cannot embark on programs and projects supposed to be implemented this year.
The 2019 national government budget was only signed last week by President Rodrigo Duterte following months of delay.
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