Friday, February 15, 2013

Angola parliament approves 2013 budget in final vote

LISBON (Reuters) - Angola's parliament on Thursday approved a 2013 budget bill that the ruling MPLA party says will increase spending to improve social conditions while extending an economic rebound in Africa's No.2 oil producer, state news agency Angop reported.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos led his MPLA party to a resounding victory in an election last August and has pledged to improve the distribution of the country's vast oil wealth and offer millions of Angolans better access to public services and jobs.

The MPLA have previously said the budget would deliver on those promises by allocating more than a third of total spending to education, health, social welfare and housing.

But the country's second-biggest opposition party, CASA-CE, said this statistic was misleading.

"The increase in resources for the social sector is a fallacy, as the biggest slice of the spending is on fuel price subsidies, which benefits the few rich in Angola and not the poor majority of the population," it said in a statement.

Together with main opposition party UNITA, CASA-CE also criticised the allocation of about 17 percent of total spending on defence and security, 11 years after the end of Angola's civil war.

Angop said the bill was approved in a final vote with 155 lawmakers for, 38 against and five abstentions. The MPLA has 175 seats in the 220-seat parliament.

The budget forecasts economic growth of 7.1 percent this year, with increased crude output and prices helping extend a rebound started by last year's 7.4 percent expansion.

Technical problems and maintenance dented Angola's oil production in 2011 but these have been largely overcome and, with new fields coming online, output is seen rising to 1.84 million barrels per day this year from last year's 1.8 million.

Dos Santos has also pledged to diversify the economy, which depends on oil for 95 percent of its export revenues.

His government has said a 60 percent jump in public investment to about $17 billion in the budget - to go mainly on construction and renovation of infrastructure destroyed by the civil war - is needed for sectors such as agriculture, industry and mining to flourish.


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