Niger junta chops 2010 budget to reflect frozen aid

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Niger’s military-led government said it had cut the 2010 budget by more than 13 percent due to the suspension of development aid under the previous government.

The lower spending projection in the impoverished West African nation comes at a time when a growing food crisis is threatening millions across the dry Sahel region.
“The council of ministers adopted on Friday the readjustment of receipts and expenditures for 2010 to 638.2 billion CFA francs ($1.30 billion), amounting to a decline of 96.7 billion CFA,” a government spokesman said on state television.
“The downward revision rests on the tight financial situation deriving from the suspension of aid. Finally, the urgent food situation also required a re-examination of state obligations for assistance and social security,” he said.

Development aid, including $450 million promised by the European Union over five years, was frozen after then-President Mamadou Tandja orchestrated constitutional changes in 2009 to extend his stay in office and broaden presidential powers.

Humanitarian aid to the uranium producer, one of the poorest in the world and in the midst of an arid desert zone facing frequent food shortages, was not cut.

Soldiers ousted Tandja and his government in February, later promising to clean up the country’s corrupt politics and call elections to hand over power to civilians.

The military-led transitional government has appealed for international help combating the looming food shortages, in stark contrast to Tandja’s downplaying a similar food crisis in 2005 which aid groups said worsened the crisis.

A commission of Nigerien political and business leaders in April called on the military junta to arrange elections and leave power within a year.

Pic: Niger Junta leader

Source: www.af.reuters.com