BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Sunday, July 22, 2007

budget deficit at P41 billion!?!

At ten minutes before 2 p.m., the board room at the 6th floor of the Department of Finance office was already filled to the brim. Reporters -- from television, print and wire agencies -- gathered to get the deficit report for the first half of the year.

It would be my first time to cover a budget deficit press briefing.

Finance Secretary Teves, along with other officials arrived to break the news: The government's budget deficit had swelled to P41 billion in the first half of the year, above the programmed ceiling of P31 billion.

I managed to submit the deficit story, along with three other articles ahead of my 4:30 p.m. deadline and I thought I did well.

I would later realize that I should have made more sense of the numbers.

A P41-billion budget deficit essentially means the government having less money for social services and infrastructure. It's why the cost of healthcare in the Philippines is soaring and it's why the country's roads and infrastructure remain inadequate.

It also means that corruption in the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs remain rampant, making them unable to meet their tax collection targets.

Reporting on numbers can be tricky. Next time, I promise to make it better next time.

As editors always say, we're just as good as our last story.