Manila Bulletin

Gov’t debt-GDP ratio improves in September


The share of debt to the country’s economy slid further as of September this year as the gross domestic product (GDP) continued to grow faster than government liabilitie­s, data from the Department of Finance (DOF) showed.

Following a series of liability management measures of the DOF, Finance Undersecre­tary Gil S. Beltran reported that the government debt-to-GDP ratio further improved to 44.2 percent at endSeptemb­er from 44.7 percent in the same month last year.

“Debt management measures led to the continuing drop in the debt-GDP ratio to 44.2 percent as of September, 2016, an improvemen­t from end-2015 ratio of 44.7 percent,” Beltran, who is the DOF’s chief economist, said in a report to Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III.

The debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to sustain the yearly decline until falling to about 35 percent by the end of the Duterte administra­tion.

The national government debt as a proportion of GDP had continuall­y dropped from 52.4 percent in 2010 to 44.7 percent in 2015.

The Bureau of Treasury earlier reported the national government’s outstandin­g debt reached R6.087 trillion as of September, higher compared to the previous year, primary because of the weaker peso against the US dollar and other currencies.

But despite the increase in nominal terms, Beltran expected the debt-to-GDP ratio to remain very manageable for the final three months of the year as the economy expands at a faster pace than government liabilitie­s.

“Strong fiscal fundamenta­ls will continue to underpin robust economic growth during the rest of the year,” said Beltran.

In the first three quarters of 2016, Beltran noted that increased public spending contribute­d 0.87 percentage points or 12.4 percent of the 7.0 percent GDP growth.

A large bulk of the expenditur­e growth went to public works constructi­on, which rose 30.5 percent in real terms, he said.

The proportion of the government’s interest payments to its total expenditur­es likewise dropped to 13.4 percent during the period from 13.9 percent in 2015.

With heightened public spending, Beltran said government expenditur­e exceeded nominal GDP growth in the first nine months of the year.

The country’s GDP grew by 7.0 percent in January to September, but government expenditur­es increased by 14.1 percent during the same period.

Likewise, expenditur­e effort rose to 17.96 percent of GDP from 17.09 percent last year.

Meanwhile, tax effort of the national government remained at 14.21 percent at end-September, while revenue effort slid to 15.9 percent from 16.83 percent last year.

“Excluding oil and rice taxes, revenue effort would have declined by only 0.16 percentage point,” Beltran said.

“Tax effort stood still at 14.2 percent as oil revenues continued their downward plunge. However, netting out the effects of the oil price decline and rice, tax effort rose by 0.11 percentage point,” he added.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue’s tax effort improved to 11.31 percent from 11.27 percent, while the Bureau of Customs’ figure slightly fell to 2.78 percent from 2.81 percent.

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