THE budget deficit narrowed by 47.23% year-on-year in March after a strong revenue performance, while spending was dampened by the delay in the passage of the 2019 Budget, the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) said.

In its cash operations report, the BTr said the Budget deficit was P58.409 billion in March, down from a deficit of P110.693 billion a year earlier.

Month-on-month, the deficit fell 23.52%.

Until mid-April, the government was operating on a re-enacted 2018 Budget after both chambers of Congress were locked in dispute over alleged “insertions” in the Budget after the bicameral conference committee signed on to the spending plan. The impasse delayed the Budget’s transmission to Malacañang. It was eventually signed on April 15, with some provisions amounting to P95 billion vetoed by the Palace.

Revenue collection in March amounted to P228.918 billion, up 13.12% from a year earlier, and also 13.27% higher than the February total.

Tax revenue from Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Bureau of Customs (BoC) and other offices amounted to P198.307 billion in March, up from P177.710 billion a year earlier, and also higher than the P182.572 billion collected in February.

Non-tax revenue for the month totaled P30.582 billion, up from P24.650 billion in March 2018 and P19.509 billion a month earlier.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) forecasts higher collections this year due to the tax amnesty program.

“We really have good revenue. We’re having very healthy (Treasury) auctions even in terms of the fund raising, but really because of the lower spending for the quarter attributed to the non-passage of the 2019 Budget. We’re able to have a very strong cash position,” Rosalia V. De Leon, National Treasurer, told reporters on the sidelines of the Treasury bill auction Monday last week.

“We’re very bountiful in cash,” Ms. De Leon said.

Asked to comment, Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion, Chief Economist at UnionBank of the Philippines, said that spending is expected to normalize after President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed into law the 2019 Budget in mid-April.

“With the national budget already signed by Duterte, I think the spending will eventually normalize. Normalize, meaning, it will catch up according to how things are programmed,” Mr. Asuncion said in a mobile message.

Last month, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said that the delayed approval will make it unlikely for the government to catch up with planned spending because certain key projects are expected to miss the dry-season window for construction.

Due to the delay, the 7% gross domestic product (GDP) growth projected for 2019 is now less attainable, he said.

“It becomes less attainable. It is like a balloon. You put a little weight in it, it cannot fly as high,” Mr. Dominguez said.

“Time is lost. What is lost is lost. No matter how much you want to catch up, you can never really catch up especially that the weather has been so good for the past almost three or four months,” according to Mr. Dominguez. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio