Citing proposals from lawmakers, the Armenian government approved on Thursday a slight increase in expenditures envisaged by its draft budget for next year.
The government said it is now ready to spend a total of 1.1 trillion drams ($3.1 billion) in 2010, up from 998.6 billion drams that was projected by the original version of the bill debated by the National Assembly last month.
The spending target initially proposed by the government represented a nearly 7 percent increase from this year’s level.
“We will pass the 1 trillion-dram mark and if the draft budget is approved by the parliament,” Finance Minister Tigran Davtian told journalists.
Davtian said that the government can raise 2.4 billion drams in additional state revenues thanks to recent weeks’ appreciation of the national currency, the dram, which means it will have to spend less on debt servicing in 2011 than was originally planned. The extra funds will be mainly channeled into public education, he said.
Davtian emphasized that the spending increase sought by the government will not widen the budget deficit. It is projected to equal 3.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2011.
The National Assembly, which is dominated by government loyalists, is expected to approve the spending bill next week. Deputies representing its opposition minority strongly criticized the proposed budget during the debates, saying that it will not help to ease Armenia’s socioeconomic problems.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian insisted, however, that the budget has a “clear social orientation.” He claimed that the increase in social spending planned by his government is “unprecedented.”
The budgetary targets are based on the assumption that the Armenian economy will grow by 4.6 percent in 2011. The International Monetary Fund forecast the same growth rate in late September.