Government debt increases to $1.08 billion

By Adel Fruean 17 June 2020, 8:00AM

The Government's total debt stands at $1.08 billion in March 2020, which shows an increase of $14.9 million compared to the same period last year.

The figure is confirmed by the Samoa Bureau of Statistics (S.B.S.) in a report signed by its Chief Executive Officer, Aliimuamua Malaefono Taua. 

The $1.08 billion debt is composed mostly of debts to foreign states, multilateral and development institutions. 

“Multilateral loans or concessional with international financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and others amounted to $590.8 million,” read the statistics.

It also added that the amount has increased by $41.8 million over the last twelve months; and was primarily due to the disbursement amounted to $41.0 million for new infrastructural projects.   

However, bilateral outstanding debt such as the People’s Republic of China and Japan amounted to $484.9 million which is $23.1 million lower compared to March 2019 quarter.

The bilateral loans recorded a decrease of $19.8 million compared to corresponding quarter of 2019.  

Furthermore, the total outstanding domestic debt amounted to $9.5 million as of the end of March 2020, a significant reduction of 7.2 million when compared to March 2019.  

The Central Budgetary Government operations during the March quarter of Financial Year 2019/20 resulted with a net lending/borrowing balance surplus of $31.2 million. 

Yet, the out-turn was a result of the increase in revenue coupled with the decrease in expenditure during the quarter.

Total revenue for the Central Budgetary Government recorded during the March 2020 quarter was $193.3 million, an increase of $41.3 million compared to March 2019 quarter.

Behind the increase in revenue was a significant amount of grants received to assist with the measles outbreak.

Total expenditure (on Operations and Acquisition of Fixed Assets) on the other hand went down from last year by $28.9 million to record a total of $162.0 million at the end of March 2020.       

The Net Operating Balance recorded a surplus of $34.3 million; $24.9 million more than its corresponding quarter 2019.

The positive out-turn was largely due to a large sum of grants received during the quarter, which more than offset the increase of $16.5 million in expenses when compared to the March 2019. Taxes and non-tax revenue were on par compared to March quarter 2019. 

The total revenue for the March 2020 quarter amounted to $193.3 million.

Within the amount, 71.0 per cent which is equivalent to $137.4 million were taxes; 21.2 per cent (or $41.0 million) were grants with non-tax revenue at $14.9 million, contributing 7.7 per cent to overall revenue amount. 

The goods and services taxes with the likes of excise tax and VAGST and Taxes on specific Services) collected $92.4 million in the period under review. 

VAGST continued to increase with a total of $53.5 million, an increase of $0.5 million from the previous year. 

Though, it declined by $15.0 million compared to the December 2019 quarter. Excise tax recorded a shortfall of $0.8 million on a yearly basis; this loss was offset with the increase in collection from the taxes on use of goods at the same amount.

Taxes on income, aggregated to $35.5 million for the quarter under review. When compared to March and December of 2019, the amount went up by $7.2 million and $5.0 million respectively.  

The total grants received amounted to $41.0 million, a significant amount when compared to March 2019. The period under review was the second highest since the June 2014, with a $60.0 million grants. 

The grant funded projects disbursements coupled with assistance for the measles outbreak in late November/December period contributed to this significant change.   

While other revenues amounted to $14.9 million tala, when compared to its corresponding quarter of 2019, it recorded a shortfall of $2.5 million. It was however $1.0 million higher compared to December 2019 quarter.  

The total expenditure as at the end of quarter amounted to $162.0 million; which consists of operating expenses at $159.0 million, (at 98.1 per cent) and acquisition of fixed assets at $3.0 million. 

At this level, expenditure declined by $28.9 million and $18.0 million when compared to March and December 2019 quarters respectively. 

Operating expenses increased by $16.5 million compared to March 2019. The growth was attributed mainly to the 15.4 million increase in grants to public bodies with slight increases in the expense on compensation of employees as well expenditure on goods and services. 

The total spending on Non-Financial Assets (N.F.A.) was low compared to March and December 2019. Total spending on N.F.A.’s during the review period amounted to $3.0 million, a significant drop of $45.4 million and $27.6 million from March and December last year. 

The completion of major projects coupled with delays in the implementation of other projects as because of the lockdown because of the measles outbreak in late 2019 were some of the major contributing factors to the slow down. 

In terms of Government by function, a significant amount was recorded for economic affairs amounted to $35.6 million; 22.0 per cent of total expenditure.

A total amount of $7.2 million was spent on general economic, commercial and labor affairs. 

The agriculture sector received $3.8 million following a lump sum disbursement of $35.5 million in the December 2019 quarter. The transport sector received $3.4 million to continue its ongoing projects.  

General public services’ share was $35.1 million, increasing by $1.3 million on a yearly basis but decline by $2.1 million compared to December 2019. Total spending on general public services is equivalent to 21.6 percent of total Government expenditure.    

Yet, health sector’s share amounted to $30.8 million, increased by $4.8 million and $7.0 million compared to December and March 2019 respectively. 

Increased expenditure for the sector is indicative of government’s commitment to further improve health services for every part of the country following the Measles outbreak in November resulted in a Government lockdown in early December. As a result, the sector share of total expenditure was 19.0 per cent.   

Similarly, expenditure for the education sector stood at $30.5 million, increased by $6.5 million compared to December 2019. 

According to a statement by Aliimuamua, the Government Finance Statistics (G.F.S.) provide statistics that enable policymakers and analysts to study developments in the financial operations, financial position and liquidity situation of the government sector in a consistent and systematic manner. 

Balancing items have been created to provide summary information such as Net Operating Balance (N.O.B.) and Net Lending (+) or Borrowing (-). The detailed data can also be used to examine specific areas of government operations, example: particular forms of taxation, level of expense and the amount of government borrowing etc. The harmonization of this system with other macroeconomic statistical systems like the System of National Accounts means that data from the G.F.S. can be combined with data from NA to assess government performance in relation to the rest of the economy. Similarly, it can also be used for inter-country analysis of government operations, such as comparisons of ratios of taxes or expense to gross domestic product.  

The Bureau have just completed refinements and improvements made to the framework over the past few years, in trying to extend the coverage to include the Government Public Bodies, as well ensuring that the latest information is incorporated in the system and reflected in the report. 

By Adel Fruean 17 June 2020, 8:00AM

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