Madagascar’s Parliament Approves 2011 Budget, Raises Spending

Madagascar’s parliament approved the 2011 budget yesterday after raising some of the spending plans, government officials said.

The government will spend at least 175 billion ariary ($84 million) more than the original budget proposal of 3.27 trillion ariary, Olga Raveloarisoa, head of the upper chamber’s finance and economy commission, said by phone today from the capital, Antananarivo.

"The principle changes are an additional 50 billion ariary allocated for next year’s elections, 100 billion for social housing projects and 25 billion for President Rajoelina’s subsidized food products for poor families," Raveloarisoa said.

The government is planning local, legislative and presidential elections for next year as it tries to end a political crisis triggered by President Andry Rajoelina’s seizure of power last year with the help of the military. The March coup led international donors to freeze aid that once made up as much as two thirds of the budget.

The 2011 budget forecasts 54 billion ariary in foreign aid and 416 billion Ariary from private investors for public investment projects.

"If traditional investors like the U.S, EU and France don’t give money, maybe we will look more towards China, the Middle East and Asia," Raharinaivo Andrianatoandro, president of the Transitional Congress, said in a Nov. 23 interview.

The U.S. has omitted Madagascar from the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which offers cheap access to the U.S. market, until the country returns to democracy.

The government expects the economy to grow 2.8 percent next year, driven by the start-up of Sherrit International Corp.’s $4.65 billion Ambatovy nickel mine.

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