2015 budget deficit widest in two years
Prinz Magtulis (Philstar.com) - March 16, 2016 - 9:42pm

The Aquino administration posted its widest budget deficit in two years last year -- albeit still below target-- after spending caught up and revenues contracted in the last month of 2015.

The budget gap amounted to P121.7 billion, up from P73.1 billion a year ago, the Bureau of the Treasury reported on Thursday.

It was the widest deficit by the Aquino government since 2013's P164.062 billion. A deficit means the government spent more than it earned.

As a proportion of economic output, the deficit accounted for 0.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), higher than 0.6 percent the previous year but below the two-percent cap set last year.

"This is the direct result of good governance -- a marked break from the past that we ought to continue towards the next administration," Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima was quoted as saying in a statement.

Critics have hit the government for persistently falling behind its spending plans despite double-digit revenue growth, which they said partly caused the GDP growth slowdown last year to 5.8 percent.

Broken down, last year's revenues grew 11 percent to P2.109 trillion, while expenditures expanded 13 percent to P2.231 trillion.

Disbursements, in particular, recorded its fastest growth in three years last year, Treasury data showed.

This was partly thanks to a spending uptick in December, which widened the deficit that month alone to P75.1 billion, a three-year high.

Revenues went down six percent, while expenditures rose nine percent that month.

"(I am) very happy about the improvements in spending," said Nicholas Antonio Mapa, research officer at Bank of the Philippine Islands, in an e-mail.

"I would like to see where the increases came from. Hopefully, it's widespread and not centered on the government bonuses and salary increases," he added.

As a proportion of GDP, revenues accounted for 15.9 percent, of which taxes cornered 13.7 percent. Expenditure effort, on the other hand, reached 16.8 percent.

While all were up from year-ago levels, they missed their targets of 16.3 percent, 15.3 percent and 18.5 percent, respectively.

Theoretically, more revenues should be collected as the economy grows, while the government should spend more to support expansion.

On the revenue side, the Bureau of Internal Revenue collected P1.442 trillion, up seven percent from 2014 but below its P1.674-trillion target.

The picture turned worse for the Bureau of Customs. The agency's P367.5-billion collection not only fell 16 percent below target, but also inched down from P369.3 billion the previous year.

Treasury, meanwhile, raked in P110 billion, beating its target by 81 percent, data showed.

"We have almost doubled government revenues in five years through through tax administration and enforcement reforms to improve collections and passing a landmark sin tax reform law last 2013," Purisima said.

On spending, debt interest payments continued to decline last year by 14 percent to P309.4 billion. It was also four percent lower than the P321.2-billion allocation for the year.

"It was a nice finish for this administration," Mapa said.

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