Government spending on education, health care and the environment would all increase next year in the proposed 2009 budget that Finance Minister Guillermo Zúñiga handed over to the Legislative Assembly yesterday.
The assembly will now examine and make changes to the budget, which must be voted on before December.
The budget lays out about ¢4.1 trillion ($7.45 billion) in spending, which is an increase of 17.9 percent over this year’s budget.
“The growth is a little bit smaller,” Zúñiga said, referring to the current budget, which was 18.6 percent larger than 2007’s.
President Oscar Arias announced last week that the 2009 budget would emphasize social spending, dedicating 45 percent of the nation’s resources to key areas such as health care, housing, education, pensions and cash transfer programs to poor families and mothers.
Health spending, for example, would rise 37.6 percent. Avancemos (Let’s Go Forward), a program that gives monthly cash transfers to poor families in exchange for keeping their kids in school, would get $110 million, a 52 percent increase over 2008.
The Public Education Ministry would see a total budget of ¢1.1 billion ($2 billion), an increase of 37.5 percent over this year, Zúñiga said. According to the Finance Ministry, education spending represents 6.3 percent of Costa Rica’s gross domestic product (GDP). The Constitution was changed in 1997 to require government spending on education to equal at least 6 percent of GDP, however President Arias’ 2007 budget was the first to comply.
Environment spending is also set to increase under the Arias administration’s budget. The Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET) would receive $52 million, a 36.6 percent boost over this year’s budget. Of that, about $20 million would go to the national parks system and $1 million would go to Arias’ broad environmental program Peace with Nature.