Legislators were likely to approve a $6.7 billion budget for 2008 in final debate as of press time.
The 2008 budget represents an 11.6% increase in spending in real terms over this year’s budget. Spending would increase for nearly all major government programs and ministries, except for the Ministry of Production and the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Among the biggest items on the budget are $1.56 billion for the Ministry of Education, $721 million for pensions and 364 million for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT). The government’s largest cost is $2.68 billion for payment of debt.
The Housing Ministry, which leads the Arias administration’s anti-poverty efforts, would see the greatest increase in its budget of all the government ministries. Its budget will jump nearly 400%, from $8.5 million to $42 million.
The budget to be passed by the Legislative Assembly is nearly identical to the one proposed by Finance Minister Guillermo Zuñiga in late August.
Legislators made several small changes, including an increase in resources for the Judicial Branch and for transportation and public works projects.
When the budget is out of the way, legislators can devote more time to the 11 laws required to implement the controversial Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), which was approved in a national referendum last month.