THE Department of Finance (DoF) said National Government (NG) revenue performance, as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP), would place the Philippines at around the median of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In a statement on Monday, the director of the DoF’s Domestic Finance Group, Rowena S. Sta. Clara, was quoted as saying in a report to a recent meeting of the DoF executive committee that the average revenue effort of the Duterte administration between 2016 and 2021 was 15.6% of GDP, the highest in over 20 years.

The DoF said the improved revenue levels were posted despite restrictions imposed during the various stages of the pandemic.

The report used data from the International Monetary Fund, which forecast the revenue effort of other ASEAN members. Philippine data were taken from the Cash Operations Report of the Bureau of the Treasury, Ms. Sta. Clara said.

Brunei tops the list with a revenue effort of 19.1%, followed by Singapore’s 18.7% and Thailand’s 17%. Malaysia and Indonesia’s revenue efforts are projected at 14.3% and 11.8%, respectively.

All data, except for the Philippines and Indonesia, are forecasts.

On the expenditure side, the Philippines was second in ASEAN with P4.7 trillion or 24.1% of GDP, Ms. Sta. Clara said.

She also noted that the 10.6% growth in NG expenditure in 2020 and 2021 was a result of infrastructure and other capital spending, spending for pandemic recovery measures, equity infusions in support of the government’s lending programs, and spending on personal services, which has increased to 30% of NG expenditures in the past decade.

Brunei had an expenditure-to-GDP ratio of 28.4%, while Singapore was third at 21.1%.

All six ASEAN countries posted budget deficits in 2021. The Philippine deficit was second-largest at 8.6% of GDP, topped only by Brunei at 9.3%. Malaysia came in third at 6.4%.

During the Development and Budget Coordination Committee’s 181st meeting on May 24, the target deficit-to-GDP ratio for this year was set at 7.6%, easing to 6.1% in 2023.

NG debt rose to a record P12.76 trillion in April, due to COVID-19-related borrowing and to support the economic recovery.

The DoF has said that debt would have been much higher at P15.4 trillion in 2022, had it not blocked revenue-eroding measures and scaled back COVID-19 stimulus bills. These would have led to additional spending amounting to P2.2 trillion, had these measures been passed by Congress. — Tobias Jared Tomas