By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
GovGuam has never been richer; defies Covid-year doom predictions
Fiscal 2020 ends with $1.82B in total revenues
The Covid 19 pandemic sent Guam tourism into a coma and caused several businesses to shutter, resulting in mass layoffs and nearly 2,000 permanent job losses in 2020. Yet, the government of Guam's fiscal picture has never been brighter.
According to the Fifth Popular Annual Financial Report released Thursday, GovGuam ended fiscal 2020 with $1.82 billion in total revenues.
"This excludes totals from the component units," states the report prepared by the Department of Administration.
Federal grants and contributions formed the largest source of revenues, which accounted for 50.1 percent or $911,44 million of GovGuam's total income for the reporting year.
The second-largest source of income was income taxes at $324,932,867 or 17.8 percent. Gross receipts taxes was third at $296.5 million or 16.3 percent, the report said.
General revenues in 2020 increased by $8.8 million (or 1.1 percent) from the previous fiscal year.
The change was due to an increas in income tax collections, Section 30 federal income tax of $5.3 million , property tax of $826,000, excise taxes of $445,000, tobacco taxes of $369,000 and alcoholic beverages taxes of $170,000.
However, DOA said these increases were offset by cuts in gross receipt tax collections of $18.4 million (5.9 percent), hotel occupancy taxes of $18.3 million (41 percent), liquid fuel tax of $2.4 million (16.5 percent) and limited gaming taxes of $2.4 million (57.8 percent).
Previous audits by the Office of Public Accountability showed that GovGuam had general revenues of $738.1 million in 2019 and $668 million in 2018.
Administration Director Edward Birn said the newly released financial report is unaudited and not based on generally accepted accounting principles.
"The PAFR covers the 'primary government,' which comprises all the line agencies and legally separate organizations which form part of the general fund. It also covers the discretely presented component units, for which GovGuam is ultimately financially responsible," he added.
At the beginning of 2020, GovGuam predicted the pandemic-induced doldrums to decimate its budget.
The gloom-and-doom scenario, however, was negated by a flood of federal aid for Guam businesses and households that helped prop up incomes and consumer spending.
In a separate report released earlier this week, the OPA attributed the govenment's deficit reduction to the income tax collections from the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
The DOA report said throughout fiscal year 2020, there was an accumulation of $990.3 million in program revenues.
"At the forefront of program revenues is public welfare with $392.5 million, increasing 100 percent from prior year. In second place is Public Health increasing $36.9 million, or 13.32 percent from fiscal year 2019," the report said.
"Economic development increased $13.5 million, or 103.9 percent, from fiscal year 2019. Program revenues for public education, general government, protection of life & property, individual & collective rights and community services increased in fiscal year 2020 for a combined total of $29.7 million compared to fiscal year 2019."
The Covid-related public health emergency, which came with a lockdown order, forced most businesses to either scale down or suspend their operations altogether.
"Recovery of Guam's tourism industry is not expected to reach pre-pandemic arrivalnumbers before 2024 and is highly dependent on how the countries of our primary visitor markets manage their respective Covid-19 problems," the DOA report said.
"Other areas of tourism are being considered, such as 'vaccination tourism.' And with the 'Guam Safe Certified' stamp, in conjunction with 'Safe Travels' stamp from the The World Travel & Tourism Council, travelers recognize that Guam has adopted health and hygieneglobal standardized protocols," the report said.
Guam’s overall economic performance in fiscal 2020 remained below previous fiscal years as the worldwide pandemic continued to affect all global economies.
According to the Guam Visitors Bureau fiscal 2020 summary report, Guam counted 757,385 visitors at the end of fiscal year 2020, a decline of 53.6 percent from fiscal 2019.