June 11, 2011 / 10:40 AM / 7 years ago

Ethiopia budget to expand by 22 pct to fight poverty

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia has proposed a record 117.8 billion birr annual budget for next year, aiming to build infrastructure, health and education services in one of Africa’s fastest growing economies.

Traffic flows down a main street in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa January 27, 2010. The Africa of old -- aid-dependent, and with large tracts of the economy controlled by corrupt and capricious governments -- has not disappeared. But for all the previous false dawns, there is a growing belief that the continent -- home to 53 countries, a rapidly urbanising young population of a billion people and as much as a third of the world's natural resources -- is changing. Picture taken January 27. To match Special Report DAVOS/AFRICA REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya (ETHIOPIA - Tags: BUSINESS CITYSCAPE)

Although still one of the world’s poorest countries, the Horn of Africa nation says its economy has grown by an annual average of 11 percent over the past five years, one of the continent’s highest rates.

Ethiopia devalued its currency by 10 percent in 2009 to boost foreign reserves.

The first draft of the 2011/2012 (July 8-July 7) budget shows spending up by 22 percent from the $5.7 billion endorsed in 2010/2011.

Domestic revenue accounts for more than 67 percent of the proposed budget, with the rest generated from external loans and grants, the draft says.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his council of ministers passed the proposal late on Friday and it will be presented first to a parliamentary committee, before Meles presents it to parliament for approval in early July, finance ministry spokesman Haji Ibsa told Reuters.

Addis Ababa has been attracting interest from investors, many from China and India, looking to its agriculture, oil and gas exploration and hydropower sectors.

Opposition parties say the ruling party inflates the country’s growth figures to attract investment and that growth has not filtered down to the poor in a country where last year, 13 million out of 80 million people needed foreign food aid.

While the government forecasts growth of 11.4 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund says it will be only about 7.5 percent.

The Washington-based body predicts the figure will slow to about 6 percent in the 2011/12 fiscal year, due to high inflation, restrictions on private bank lending and a trickier business environment.

Ethiopia’s year-on-year inflation rate surged for a second straight month to 29.5 percent in April, from 25 percent a month earlier.

Of the total budget, 48.7 billion birr will be used to improve health, infrastructure and education services, according to the proposal.

Ethiopia has spent over $3.6 billion on the construction of roads over the last decade.

Regular spending is up by 35 percent to 23.3 billion birr.

“We have a very efficient tax system now and we are confident we will hit the target,” said Melaku Fenta, Director of the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority.

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