The government’s budget deficit widened by 328 percent in March from a year ago, as revenue collection fell and government expenditures soared ahead of the national elections, data from the Bureau of Treasury show.
The Treasury said the government incurred a budget shortfall of P74.4 billion in March, up from only P17.4 billion registered in the same month last year.
This brought the total budget deficit in the first quarter to P112.5 billion, or 236 percent higher than the shortfall of P33.5 billion a year earlier. It also surpassed the programmed deficit of P99.6 billion for the period by 13 percent. The government set a deficit ceiling of P296.2 billion for the whole of 2016.
Netting out interest payments, the government registered a P38.6-billion primary deficit in March and P9.9 billion primary deficit in the first quarter.
The Treasury said revenue collection fell 8 percent in March to P157.8 billion. “Year-to-date revenues, however, is still up by 2 percent year-on-year,” it said.
Revenue collection in the January-March period rose to P479 billion from P470.5 billion a year earlier. This was 17 percent short of the P573.7-billion target collection for the period.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue saw collection rise 9 percent in March to P105.7 billion in March, bringing the agency’s three-month collection to P330.2 billion, up by 8 percent from a year ago. The agency, however, missed by 21 percent the P415.8-billion target collection for the period.
Customs collection fell 9 percent to P32.4 billion in March and 2 percent to P90.5 billion in the first quarter. The Bureau of Treasury posted a 34-percent drop in collection to P24.9 billion in the first quarter.
Revenues from other offices also tumbled 38 percent year-on-year to P8.6 billion in March. Collection in the first quarter was flat at P33.4 billion.
Government spending accelerated 23 percent to P232.2 billion in March and 17 percent to P591.5 billion in the first quarter. The Treasury said actual expenditures still missed the programmed spending of P673.3 billion for the quarter.
The Budget Department said the growth in expenditures was led by the front-loading of agency budgets and faster rate of disbursements in the run-up to the elections.
“The increase was brought about by the comprehensive release of the budget at the start of the year, allowing agencies to get a head start on carrying out programs and projects immediately,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said.
Debt interest payments increased 18 percent year-on-year due to coupon payments of new and re-issued benchmark bonds and accounts.