Bouteflika signs Algeria budget at rare cabinet meet

The planned fiscal deficit -- 18.1 percent of gross domestic product -- is down from 19 percent in 2013,

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Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Monday signed into law the 2014 budget, which envisages a 11.3 percent increase in government spending and projects a deficit of $42 billion.

The 76-year-old president ratified the budget, the last in his third term, at the presidential palace in the presence of senior state officials and members of the government, the national APS news agency reported.

It is just the second cabinet meeting of 2013, with Bouteflika having spent nearly three months in France this year recovering from a mini-stroke and largely unseen since his return in July.

The 2014 budget, which was approved by parliament in November, forecasts economic growth of 4.5 percent in 2014, compared with 5.0 percent this year, and 3.5 percent inflation.

The planned fiscal deficit -- 18.1 percent of gross domestic product -- is down from 19 percent in 2013, while spending is set to rise by 11.3 percent to 7,656.2 billion dinars ($98 billion).

When he first presented the draft budget in October, Algeria’s Finance Minister Karim Djoudi said the revenue regulation fund (FRR) would plug half the deficit, with the treasury covering the rest, and no new taxes planned.

The FFR is funded by the surplus in oil revenues above the budget’s standard 37 dollars per barrel reference price.

The OPEC country remains heavily dependent on its oil and gas receipts, which account for more than 95 percent of foreign currency earnings, despite the government’s stated commitment to diversifying the economy.

Despite persistent questions about his ability to rule owing to poor health, Bouteflika was last month designated his party’s candidate in the planned presidential election in April next year, indicating that he will run for a fourth term.

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