Colombia’s House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a budget of 203 billion pesos ($107 million) for 2014. The budget will now be debated in the Senate.
The Minister for Finance, Mauricio Cardenas, said that he was satisfied with the approval and thanked Congress for their help in shaping the budget. He highlighted the approval of $3.7 million to help more than 300,000 victims of Colombia’s 49-year armed conflict.
Almost $25 million will go towards enacting the government’s flagship National Development Plan, which hopes to boost economic growth, bring 2.5 million Colombians out of poverty, reduce unemployment to 9% and continue with social welfare programs.
Unemployment in Colombia stood at at 9.3% at the end of August, according to the country’s department of statistics (DANE).
Cardenas said that for the first time in a long time the payment to service the country’s debt will fall by almost $1 million and the interest payments by $53 million. He said that this money will translate to “more social investment.”
The budget allocates enough money for 15,000 new policemen, a move criticized by Germán Navas, a representative from the opposition party Polo Democratico. He said that the budget privileges the war on crime and guerrillas to the detriment of education and the agricultural sector.
During August and September Colombia was shaken by protests and strikes that centred around the plight of the country’s farmers, who have suffered in the wake of the ratification of several free trade agreements, including one signed between Colombia and the United States, which took effect in May 2012.
In terms of education, the government has promised to assure free access to schooling for 9 million children, with a further million toddlers up to the age of five receiving free early childhood care.
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