San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

2005 National Budget Gets Preliminary Approval

THE Legislative Assembly approvedthe 2005 national budget in first debateMonday after only one week of discussion,a record in the history of theassembly, the daily La Nación reported.Of 43 legislators present, 27 voted infavor of the budget, with 16 opposed.To be final, the budget must beapproved in a second vote, expected totake place next Thursday.The $2.63 billion budget, which wasoriginally presented to the assembly bythe Finance Minister on Sept. 1 (TT, Sept.3) and spent nearly two months in theassembly’s Finance Committee, inspiredintense debate between legislators and theMinistry of Finance.The original proposal cut funding togovernment programs in order to redirectmore funds toward interest payments onthe national debt. Opponents claimed thecuts were too large, and the assembly’sFinance Committee redirected ¢86 billion($191 million) away from interest paymentson the debt (TT, Oct. 29).The assembly began discussion of therevised budget Nov. 1, with Nov. 30 asthe deadline for its approval.According to La Nación, legislatorsmoved quickly on the budget vote tosooner discuss a legislative reform billunder consideration. The reform wouldpermit that certain projects receive specialconsideration in the assembly, such asshorter voting deadlines.Proponents of the reform intend toapply the fast-track process to thePermanent Fiscal Reform Package that theassembly has been debating for nearlythree years.Assembly President GerardoGonzález has said he hopes to have thereform approved before Dec. 1, the dailyreported.Even if it is finalized next week, the2005 budget’s future remains unclear.Last month, Finance Minister FedericoCarrillo told The Tico Times through hispress officer, Fabiola Martínez, that hewould not support the redirection of fundsaway from interest payments on the debt,and that the assembly’s budget is a recommendationfor the Finance Ministry, not amandate (TT, Oct. 29).

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