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Philippines: Fiscal Transparency Evaluation

Summary: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Improving fiscal transparency has been a priority in the Philippines over recent years. The government’s public financial management reform strategy has helped initiate a wide variety of reforms, which are beginning to bear fruit. In light of this, the evaluation against the 36 principles of the draft Fiscal Transparency Code (Annex IV) is broadly favorable: ? Fiscal reporting is relatively comprehensive, frequent and timely, with many areas of good and advanced practices. Coverage of public sector units’ stocks and flows is well-developed but coverage of the public sector as a whole lacks consolidated data for the public sector and general government subsectors. Comparability of fiscal data from various reports and of budget outturns against the original budget is not always possible, reflecting a fragmentation of agencies involved. While audits of individual agencies’ financial reports are undertaken, there is no separate independent audit of the consolidated Annual Financial Reports; this differs from international practice (Annex I). ? Fiscal forecasting and budgeting is generally good, with several recent improvements, especially regarding fiscal policy objectives, performance orientation, public participation, and the comprehensiveness and orderliness of the budget. However, budget credibility is undermined by the complexity and large flexibility of the annual budget framework which resulted in the non-rating of the principle on the supplementary budget (Annex II). ? Fiscal risk analysis and management is relatively strong in the Philippines compared to other countries, as shown by the publication of a comprehensive Fiscal Risk Statement with a relatively comprehensive collation of risks that could affect public finances. However, improvements are needed in a few areas, especially to capture of risks from guarantees and PPPs, assess the scope of tax expenditures, and introduce a longer-term perspective in the fiscal sustainability analysis (Annex III). The evaluation reveals two cross-cutting issues spanning across the three FTC pillars: (i) the fragmentation of responsibilities for fiscal management in the public sector, and (ii) the complexity and flexibility of the budget system, which complicate fiscal reporting. This report highlights twelve priority recommendations to address gaps in the Philippines’ transparency practices. They focus on (i) publishing a consistent set of budget documents that provides the public with the means to track and assess the operations of government; (ii) reducing the discrepancy between initial budget plans and end-year fiscal outturns; (iii) integrating fiscal sustainability considerations into short-term policy decisions; (iv) delineating more rigorously the government’s policy activities from purely commercial activities; (v) better allocating resources to priority areas over the medium term; and (vi) ensuring that consolidated financial reports are audited in a fully-independent manner.