(STAR) By Iris C. Gonzales - After three consecutive months of surpluses, the National Government (NG) recorded a budget deficit of P14.5 billion in September, the Department of Finance (DOF) reported yesterday.

The September figure brought the cumulative budget deficit for the first nine months to P40 billion, still below the government’s target ceiling of P54 billion for the period, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said.

This represents about two-thirds of the programmed deficit of P63 billion or 0.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) for 2007.

Teves attributed the better-than-expected fiscal performance during the month to strong revenues from the government’s two major revenue generating agencies, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

The BIR, the government’s main revenue earner, collected P48.9 billion in September or P500 million higher than its target for the month.

The BOC, for its part, had collected P19.4 billion during the month or P415 million higher than the target for the period. In the first nine months of the year, the budget deficit stood at P40 billion or P14 billion lower than the programmed deficit for the period of P54 billion.

Total revenues for January to September amounted to P812.3 billion or P24.7 billion short of the collection goal of P837 billion.

Total expenditures, on other hand, reached P852.3 billion or lower than the program by P38.7 billion as interest payments slid by 12.5 percent.

BIR collections alone reached P521.9 billion from January to September, P45 billion lower than the target of P566.9 billion. The BOC, meanwhile, increased its revenues by 4.9 percent from last year to P153 billion but still P12 billion lower than the collection goal of P165 billion for the period.

The January to September budget deficit figures allowed the government to post a budget surplus of P971 million in the third quarter alone.

Teves said this was an over-performance of P23.7 billion against the programmed deficit of P22.7 billion for the quarter. Nevertheless, Teves said the government needs to continue improving its fiscal position.

“While we continue to see an improvement in our overall fiscal performance, there is a need to further strengthen our revenue collection efforts.

The BIR and the BOC are working hard to implement their action plans which we have seen to be gradually producing results,” Teves said.

The BIR has been enhancing its audit measures and stepping up collection efforts while the BOC has been implementing stricter rules against smugglers.

Teves said the government is also pursuing privatization to ensure that it would be able to raise the needed revenues to fund vital infrastructure project and social services.

Teves expressed hopes that the government would be able to contain the budget deficit at P63 billion this year.

“We remain confident that we will be able to hit our target of reducing the budget deficit to P63 billion this year.

This should pave the way for the attainment of our goal of balancing the budget by the end of next year,” he said.

In June, the budget surplus stood at P800 million, P1.6 billion in July and P13.9 billion in August.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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