UPDATE 1-Canada's 2012-13 deficit lower than budget forecast
* Final budget deficit for 2012-13 was C$18.9 bln
* March budget had forecast C$25.9 bln gap
* Report in May said it would be C$18.3 bln
* Direct program spending declines slightly
* Debt-to-GDP ratio a little lower; lowest in Group of Seven
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Canada's final budget figures for the fiscal year that ended in March show a deficit of C$18.9 billion ($18.3 billion), slightly higher than a government estimate released in May, but much lower than the forecast it released in its March budget.
In a preliminary report on May 31, the Finance Department's Fiscal Monitor estimated a shortfall of C$18.3 billion for the 2012-13 year, while the government's annual budget released on March 21 had projected the deficit would be C$25.9 billion.
The budget deficit had hit a record C$55.6 billion in 2009-10. Continued...