ARENA’s Budget for “Development” in 2007

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ARENA’s Budget for “Development” in 2007: Less Social Spending and More Economic Backing from Washington

On Thursday November 30, ARENA and its right wing allies voted to approve the 2007 national budget in the Legislative Assembly (see chart below). The budget they passed is characterized by its cutbacks on social spending and a lack of transparency, especially around the president’s discretionary fund and other governmental entities like the offices of intelligence. 

While the budget for the President has increased by 46% since 2003, Saca has refused support any shifting of funds that would benefit local development.  The FMLN and other local municipal governments have called for a 2% increase in the funding to the municipalities, but this budget includes no increase.  Furthermore, the Ministry of Defence will receive more funding than the Agriculture, Environment and Labor Ministries together.  Meanwhile, despite all the talk of fighting crime, ARENA refused to give any additional funding to the National Police or the court system.




The FMLN voted against the budget because it is based on fictitious calculations of economic growth and increases the country’s level of indebtedness.  The budget reduces funding to public hospitals, which are already severely under funded, and reduces the spending on public education.  The budget also does not include an increase to financing of the public University of El Salvador, which will leave an approximate of 12 thousand students without admission. 

Social organizations and unions protested outside the Legislative Assembly during the budget vote.  They protested the overall mal-distribution of funds, and especially cited the lack of funding for the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s office and the death threats against her, her family and her co-workers. 

 Meanwhile, Saca travelled to Washington D.C. on November 30 to ceremoniously receive the $461 million “gift” from the Millennium Challenge Corporation.  The money, awarded to nations to supposedly help with development and work toward the Millennium Goals like alleviating poverty and extending health care, will be used for the construction of a northern highway, or (“longitudinal del norte”). Officially, the funds will be distributed in 94 municipalities in the northern part of the country, and the funding will last 5 years.  Far from being a gift, however, the funds represent economic intervention by the U.S., since these funds will finance the infrastructure for the implementation of CAFTA.

Police Attacks on Organizing in Rural and Urban Areas

            On Tuesday, November 28, at 3:00 am, more than 600 police and 150 soldiers violently entered the community of San Lorenzo to arrest seven members of the “Committee of People Affected by the Storm Stan and the Ilamatepec Volcano Eruption.”  The community came together after being left homeless or devastated by the natural disasters, and it has been highly critical of the government’s ineffective response to these disasters.  The police and military stormed into people’s homes, intimidating both children and adults.  The community together with ANTA (National Association of Agricultural Workers) held a press conference the following day to denounce the arrests and the police intimidation. 

            Meanwhile, in San Salvador, members of the CD/DVD Vendors Movement have also been attacked by police.  The police again are raiding the “pirated” CD/DVD vendors to enforce the CAFTA laws protecting intellectual property rights.  In making the confiscation of goods, the police have beaten and arrested various members of the organized Vendors movement.  The police also threatened the movement leader for his organizing as they ransacked his home.

Salvadorans hopeful for change

            In response to the economic and social crisis in El Salvador, the Public Opinion Institute of the UCA conducted a survey in which 87% of the population said that the country needs a change.  According to the survey, it is broad public opinion in El Salvador that violence and the cost of living has increased during Saca’s term in office.  Also, the survey asked people which party they would vote for if the presidential elections were now, and the results show a tie between ARENA and FMLN.  The divergence between the desire for change and tie between the two main parties reflects the aggressive, dirty anti-FMLN campaign that ARENA is constantly carrying out.  Nonetheless, many people feel optimistic about a change coming to El Salvador, especially in light of the recent elections in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.

* BUDGET 2007

ENTITY

US$ MILLIONS

Education

$ 526.7

Public Health

$ 324

Ministry of the Interior

$ 201.7

Public Works

$ 122.9

Defence

$ 111.4

Treasury

$ 51.8

Presidency

$ 51.4

Agriculture

$ 35.6

Chancellery

$ 31.6

Tourism

$ 17.5

Environment

$ 10.5

Labour

$ 8.9

Source: Ministry of Treasury website

 

 

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