CAR

Central African Republic: Social welfare gets increased budget allocation

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BANGUI, 5 February (IRIN) - The Central African Republic (CAR), which has not paid its public service workers salary arrears of 32 months, has allocated more funds for social welfare, education, health and defence, among other sectors, in its 2003 budget.
CAR President Ange-Felix Patasse approved the 152.44-billion-franc budget CFA (about US $261.42 million) on 31 January.

Deputy Finance Minister Lazare Dokoula said on Tuesday in an interview broadcast on the government-owned Radio Centrafrique that compared with 2002, budgetary allocations to health, education and "social sectors" had risen by 10 percent, and that of defence by 19 percent. The allocation for the Ministry of the Interior had gone up by 51 percent.

Dokoula said disbursement of salary arrears would depend on the country's social and economic stability. "If the situation becomes stable, the government will have the duty to mobilise more resources both internally and externally," he said. "These resources will be used first of all for salaries."

Primary and secondary school teachers in the CAR have been on strike since September 2002, demanding their salary arrears.

Moreover, humanitarian operations currently top the priorities of the social affairs ministry, which is charged with coordinating all such operations. The CAR currently has thousands of displaced people, following the failed 25 October 2002 coup.

He said about three-fifths of the 2003 budget would be obtained from the government's own resources, while the rest would come from partners, donors and creditors. "We also have the support of our development partners," he said. He added that the country might regain peace, especially after the national talks planned for March.

Although this year's budget increased by 18 billion francs over last year's, it would not cover all the government's expenditure. "The provisional deficit amounts to 18 billion francs," Dokoula said.

The CAR failed to sign an accord with the IMF in November 2002 due the October coup attempt. The examination of the CAR's case by the IMF executive board has been postponed indefinitely. Given the conflict and instability the CAR is experiencing, such an accord, which all the investors and donors await, cannot be reached.

Rebels loyal to Francois Bozize, the former army chief of staff, occupy the northern and central regions of the CAR.

"The only wish is to have peace, without which we cannot execute this budget," Dokoula said.

[ENDS]

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