Argentina's July primary budget surplus widened 23 percent to 2.58 billion pesos ($804 million), due in part to pension contributions shifted to the state system, the government said on Wednesday.

The figure, which excludes interest payments on Argentina's debt and is seen as a gauge of the country's credit-worthiness, was well below the median forecast of 3.0 billion pesos given in last month's central bank survey (BCRA30: Quote, Profile, Research).

After debt servicing, the budget surplus was 1.52 billion pesos, the Economy Ministry said in a statement.

A reform to the pension system allowing Argentines to switch from private plans to the government program has boosted state revenues. Sales, income and export taxes also contributed to higher income, the government said.

Spending on social security rose in July, as did capital spending. Payments to the body that administers the wholesale electricity market also rose as especially-cold weather during the austral winter caused demand for power to surge.

Argentina's primary surplus totaled 2.09 billion pesos in July 2006. ($1 = 3.2075 Argentine pesos)