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PH gov’t spent more than it earned in 2019, Treasury data show

By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 04:07 PM February 27, 2020

The government last year spent more on public goods and services than it ought to even as tax and non-tax collections fell slightly short of target, resulting in a P660.2-billion budget deficit that breached the ceiling for 2019.

The latest Bureau of the Treasury data released on Thursday (Feb. 27) showed that the national government’s expenditures last year reached P3.79 trillion, up 11.4 percent from P3.41 trillion in 2018 and exceeding the P3.77-trillion program for 2019.

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“Expenditures sped up despite the delay in the approval of the 2019 budget as line agencies caught up with spending towards the latter part of the year,” the Treasury explained in a statement.

The government underspent P1 billion a day between January and April 2018 when it operated using reenacted 2018 appropriations.

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This led to a catch-up spending program to offset the slower economic growth during the first half of 2019.

Full-year 2019 gross domestic product (GDP) growth slid at an eight-year low of 5.9 percent, mainly blamed on late budget implementation.

But in December 2019 alone, Treasury data showed that disbursements jumped 57.8 percent year-on-year to P494.4 billion.

The Treasury attributed the climb in government expenditures last December to several factors, mainly “strong infrastructure spending.”

Other factors included implementation of social protection programs, spending on payroll, fund release for pensions and retirement benefits and fund release for new positions in government.

So-called “productive” spending or disbursements excluding interest payments for the government’s outstanding debt rose by a faster 12.3 percent to P3.44 trillion in 2019.

Interest payments inched up 3.3 percent to P360.9 billion but below the P399.6-billion ceiling for 2019, resulting in P38.7 billion in savings for the government.

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This was partly due to “coupon payments for outstanding debt as well as foreign exchange and LIBOR rate adjustments,” the Treasury said.

On the other hand, total tax and non-tax revenues in 2019 reached P3.14 trillion, just 0.4-percent below the P3.15-trillion goal.

Revenues in 2019 nonetheless grew by over a tenth from P2.85 trillion in 2018.

Tax revenues increased 10.2 percent to P2.83 trillion, but beneath the P2.96-trillion target.

Non-tax revenues not only rose 8.9 percent to P309.7 billion but also exceeded the P194.2-billion program by almost three-fifths.

As expenditures surpassed the program while revenues fell below goal, last year’s budget deficit was 6.5-percent bigger than the P620-billion cap equivalent to 3.25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

The 2019 fiscal deficit was equivalent to 3.55 percent of GDP.

For ING senior economist Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa, the 2019 fiscal performance showed that “the slowdown of GDP [growth] in 2019 was not due to lack of government spending.”

“The strong spending to close out the year would likely lead to an upward revision to 2019 GDP with full-year growth probably realized at 6 percent,” Mapa said.

“The surprise surge in spending in December is reflected in the aggressive borrowing stance of the Treasury of late and we can expect this behavior to continue,” he said in a note to clients on Thursday.

“With the COVID-19 virus expected to curb household spending in the coming months, we expect the fiscal front to help insulate the economy with strong spending likely to continue in the first half of 2020,” Mapa added.

Edited by TSB
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TAGS: Budget, Business, economy, GDP, spending
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