DEFICIT BALLOONS IN SEPTEMBER

MANILA, OCTOBER 21, 2003  (MALAYA) By PEARL O. BANTILLO - The government incurred budget deficit of P29.1 billion last September P7 billion more or 32 percent higher than target and the highest blowout for the year.

Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho said "economic growth is something we cannot compromise with holding onto too tight a budget."

The January to September deficit, however, remains on target at

P142.7 billion, below target of P149.5 billion.

The government chose to accelerate spending, including debt payments, while revenues slowed down.

Camacho said the government remains committed to limiting the full-year deficit to P202 billion, which is about 4.7 percent of projected gross domestic product.

The Philippines has been in budget deficits for nine of the past 13 years, largely due to a weak tax base from widespread evasion, corruption and an inefficient collection system.

From almost P24 billion as of end-June, the leeway between actual and programmed deficit has narrowed down to P6.8 billion.

"We will try to utilize that headroom to energize the domestic economy particularly on the countryside," Camacho said.

"To make sure we don't overdo it, we have an agreement with Budget secretary (Emilia) Boncodin that starting the month of October we will also be more restrained on our expenditure. So what we have done during the third quarter we don't expect to continue in the fourth quarter," Camacho said.

"We have already been able to bring down the level of accounts payable so there is less pressure on that," he added noting that the back payments have been significantly reduced to less than a month from four months.

The year 2004 should mark the government's first successful attempt at instilling fiscal discipline after five years of ballooning budget gaps.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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