* Spike in tax revenues boosts surplus to 30.251 billion
* Government likely to miss fiscal goal despite strong
* Officials say strict fiscal saving rules can be eased
By Alonso Soto
BRASILIA, Feb 27 Brazil posted a record primary
budget surplus in January because of a jump in tax revenues,
central bank data showed on Wednesday, indicating an unexpected
improvement in fiscal accounts after dismal results last year.
The country posted a surplus of 30.251 billion
reais ($15 billion) in January after a surplus of 22.25 billion
reais in December, the central bank said. The January surplus
bested market expectations of 22.8 billion reais.
The strong result was due mainly to the central government's
record surplus for January following an increase in tax
collection last month. The central government's primary surplus
includes the federal government, central bank and social
The country's primary balance includes the results from the
central government, states and municipalities and some
Despite the record surplus, Brazil is expected to miss its
primary surplus goal in 2013 for the second straight year as a
sputtering economy weighs on tax collection. The jump in tax
revenues last month came after many companies brought forward
the payment of some taxes.
President Dilma Rousseff's government has said it remains
committed to fiscal discipline, but will be forced to miss its
primary surplus goal this year so that it can increase
investments and help the economy.
Senior economic officials have said the government could
ease some of the strict fiscal saving rules.
The Rousseff administration introduced legislation to allow
the government to exclude up to 65 billion reais in investments
and tax breaks from its primary surplus target of 155.9 billion
reais, or 3.1 percent of gross domestic product.
This would free the government to give more benefits to
businesses and consumers at a time when it is considering
eliminating federal taxes on staple foods and expanding payroll
tax breaks to all sectors of the economy.
In the 12 months through January, the primary surplus
equaled 2.46 percent of GDP, up from the 2.38 percent in
The primary budget surplus is a gauge of fiscal discipline
that investors watch closely because it measures a country's
ability to service its debt. It represents the excess of revenue
over expenditures before interest payments are taken into
Although some worry that Brasilia may be turning its back on
the fiscal discipline that secured a decade of financial
stability for Brazil, most analysts agree that a lower surplus
does not threaten its ability to repay debt.
"The government is likely to continue to use the budget to
stimulate demand," Alberto Ramos, a senior economist with
Goldman Sachs, said in a note. "The lower primary fiscal surplus
should, however, not compromise the moderate downward trend of
public-debt-to-gross domestic product (ratio)."
The country's public sector net debt remained stable at 35.2
percent of GDP in January, nearly half the levels of only a
Brazil's overall budget balance, which includes interest
payments, posted a surplus of 7.602 billion reais in January
from a surplus of 3.15 billion reais in December.