Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Tuesday passed the first reading of the 2018 Budget Law by 137 votes to 86.
All deputies of the ruling Frelimo Party in the chamber voted in favour of the budget, while all the opposition deputies, from the rebel movement Renamo, and from the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), voted against.
Renamo tried to prevent the vote from being taken. Several Renamo deputies claimed it made no sense to vote on the budget before voting on the government's Economic and Social Plan for 2018. “It's like going to an ATM to withdraw money, without knowing what you're going to spend it on”, one of them claimed.
But parliamentary chairperson Veronica Macamo pointed out that the order of voting on the budget and plan has been exactly the same ever since the election of the first multi-party parliament in 1994.
She said that the initial vote is only a first reading. The budget could still be amended at the committee stage, before returning to the plenary for the definitive vote. By then the plenary will have voted on a resolution approving the Economic and Social Plan. But that resolution has not yet been drawn up by the Assembly's Plan and Budget Commission.
Frelimo deputy Helder Njonjo said that, if Renamo really wanted to change the Assembly's procedures, it needed to submit amendments to the Standing Orders, which could then be debated and voted on.
Other Frelimo deputies pointed out that Renamo had done exactly the same thing last year. Few Renamo deputies had wanted to speak in the debate on the budget, but now they were raising spurious points of order delaying the vote.
But eventually Renamo subsided and the vote was taken.
The approved budget envisages total public expenditure of 302.9 billion meticais (5.05 billion US dollars). The state revenue forecast is 222.9 billion meticais, leaving a budget deficit of 80.1 billion meticais.
The government hopes to cover this deficit with 60.9 billion meticais in foreign resources and 19.2 billion in domestic resources.
63.4 per cent of the public expenditure in the budget will be spent on economy and social sectors. Education takes the largest share at 22.6 per cent, followed by roads (13.2 per cent), health (11.5 per cent), agriculture and rural development (5.7 per cent), water supply and public works (3.1 per cent), social welfare and labour (2.9 per cent), the judicial system (1.6 per cent), and mineral resources and energy (1.3 per cent).