By Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan
THE NATIONAL government’s budget gap grew ninefold in October from a year ago as spending surged at its fastest clip in 11 months.
According to Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) data shown to reporters yesterday, the government’s budget balance amounted to a P21.8-billion deficit last month from a P2.3-billion gap in October 2016.
The national government spent P226.9 billion in October, 28.2% more than the year-ago’s P177 billion. This was the fastest pace since November 2016’s 33% spending growth.
This was due to bigger expenditures by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno told reporters yesterday. “Higher expenditures for social services by the DSWD, transportation and equipment by the BFP and PNP, and road infrastructure by the DPWH buoyed government spending for the period,” Mr. Diokno said in a press briefing.
Netting out interest payments, spending grew 28% to P206.4 billion from P160.9 billion.
In a separate press release e-mailed to reporters, Mr. Diokno noted that the third quarter had seen expenses for maintenance and operations grow 8.2% annually due to bigger disbursements for education, health care and social protection programs; public construction growth accelerate to 12.6% from the second quarter’s 12.1%; capital outlays surge 17.2% to P172.9 billion; as well as infrastructure and other capital outlays exceed a P137.8-billion program, increasing by 15.4% year-on-year to P142.1 billion.
October also saw overall revenues grow 17% to P205.1 billion from P174.6 billion a year ago, with tax revenues alone rising 18% to P186.5 billion from P157.4 billion. The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) raked in P142.5 billion that month, 17% more than P121.9 billion previously, while the Bureau of Customs (BoC) collected 29% more at P42.9 billion from P33.4 billion.
The national government’s performance in October took its year-to-date deficit to P234.9 billion, nine percent more than the year-ago P216-billion gap and 48.72% of the P482.1-billion budget shortfall programmed for this entire year.
Sought for comment, Angelo B. Taningco, economist at Security Bank Corp., said this year’s programmed deficit — equivalent to three percent of gross domestic product (GDP) — is now likely out of reach.
“I think the fiscal deficit size in October was relatively modest and appears to be not in line with the government’s program,” Mr. Taningco said in an e-mail.
“In fact, my full-year fiscal deficit forecast for 2017 is only 2.0% of GDP, which is below the government’s target of 3.0%,” he added.
“I think the main reason why fiscal deficit is likely to fall short of its target this year is because government’s revenue performance is relatively strong, outpacing its expenditure activity,” he noted.
“Public infrastructure spending has been doing relatively well in terms of meeting its program, but the government’s current operating expenditures — such as on personnel services — appear to be lagging behind the target.”
The government’s 10-month spending level was 10% up to P2.241 trillion from P2.037 trillion the past year. This is equivalent to 77.04% of 2017’s P2.909-trillion disbursement program.
Netting out interest payments, spending grew 11% to P1.972 trillion from P1.772 trillion.
Overall revenues as of end-October, meanwhile, increased a tenth to P2.007 trillion from P1.821 trillion in 2016’s comparable 10 months and was equivalent to 82.69% of 2017’s P2.426-trillion revenue program.
Tax revenues alone totaled some P1.826 trillion, up 12% from P1.63 trillion a year ago.
The same comparable 10 month periods saw the BIR rake in 11% more at P1.442 trillion from P1.293 trillion and the BoC collect 14% more at P366.7 billion from P321.3 billion.
Mr. Diokno told reporters that “[g]overnment spending is expected to further strengthen for the remaining two months of the year due to faster implementation of programs and projects, provision of the year-end bonus of government employees, and request for payment by contractors before the end of the year.”