The Syrian parliament has approved a government budget of 322 billion Syrian pounds (seven billion dollars) for 2001, an increase of 16.9 percent on this year, the official press reported Tuesday. With outlays at seven billion dollars and projected revenues at $6.8 billion, the budget forecasts a deficit of $200 million. That is a drop of 25 percent on the originally estimated shortfall of $266 million for this year.
Because of higher oil prices in 1999 and 2000, the government posted a combined surplus of $1.19 billion, which has been rolled over into the 2001 budget as part of estimated revenues.
Projected spending is up 16.9 percent on 2000's $5.9 billion, while forecast income is up 18.9 percent on this year's $5.72 billion.
The budget is broken down into three major headings: current expenses, investment and debt reduction and price support on certain products. Current expenses are budgeted at $2.7 billion, investment at $3.5 billion and debt service and price support at $811 million.
The only breakdown given on current expenses is primary and secondary education at$ 550 million dollars, higher education at $80 million and health at $213 million. Investment will be in agriculture, irrigation, mining and processing, as well as public services, notably electricity, water and transport.
Parliament member, Riad Seif, said in November that Syria would be able to increase spending next year because of the higher price of oil. Syria produces about 600,000 barrels a day of oil, of which it exports 320,000. No details were given on projected 2001 oil revenues.
When the government presented its budget to parliament, it said it planned to create 65,939 jobs next year, of which 37 percent would be in the administration and 63 percent in the state enterprises that are the backbone of the economy.
In October, the government adopted a plan to combat unemployment, earmarking $50 billion over five years to create 440,000 new jobs. Joblessness is officially estimated at 9.5 percent, but independent economists put the figure at 20 percent. — (AFP, Damascus)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )