BUENOS AIRES, March 5 Argentina posted a primary
budget deficit of 4.37 billion pesos ($888 million) in 2012
, marking the first such deficit since 1996,
government data showed on Tuesday.
The center-left government of President Cristina Fernandez
said the deficit reflected counter-cyclical spending to fend off
the impact of global economic sluggishness.
The primary budget balance, which shows government finances
before debts are paid, showed a surplus of 4.92 billion pesos in
2011. The government had forecast a primary budget surplus of
11.54 billion pesos in 2012, according to estimates included in
the 2013 budget.
"In light of the deterioration in the international
situation, fiscal policy had a counter-cyclical objective in
2012," the economy ministry said in a press statement.
A long boom in Latin America's No. 3 economy hit a wall in
2012 due to weak global demand, high inflation, a drought-hit
grains harvest, and the impact of government import and currency
controls on investment.
Fernandez's administration has used high state spending to
sustain domestic demand and economic growth in Argentina, but
analysts say that strategy is losing steam.
The overall fiscal deficit in 2012 totaled 55.56 billion
pesos, compared with a deficit of 30.66 billion pesos in 2011.
In December alone, Argentina posted a primary budget deficit
of 11.05 billion pesos, widening 36 percent from the
8.11 billion peso deficit recorded in December 2011.
The overall fiscal deficit in December was 33.15 billion