Friday, March 26, 2010

Devil in the Details: Honduras' Budget Proposal

Among the multitude of things that a new executive administration does, the one that best shows its priorities is its budget proposal. This week, we got to see the proposal by the administration of Porfirio Lobo Sosa.

The bottom line: the budget proposes an increase of about 6.5% over 2009.

But this is not to say that every part of the budget is treated equally. In fact, a number of government agencies will face declining budgets under the proposal.

Big losers in the proposed budget:
  • the Fondo Hondureño de Inversión Social (FHIS), which would lose about 25% of its budget, affecting its mission of providing funding for social development projects;
  • the Consejo Hondureño de Ciencia y Tecnología appears to face a budget more than 95% reduced from 2009, perhaps indicating that in Honduras as in the US, right wing governments think science and technology are best left to the private sector; meanwhile, the Direccion de Ciencia y Tecnología Agropecuaria would lose more than 50% of its 2009 funding, presumably indicating that the application of science and technology to farming and animal husbandry is something recognized as usefully done by government;
  • the Instituto Nacional de Conservación y Desarrollo Forestal will experience about a 13% decline, presumably not good for its mission of encouraging forest ecosystem preservation and development;
  • the Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones will see its budget decline by 30%, presumably because telecommunications has ceased to be a corrupt part of Honduran commerce;
  • the Registro Nacional de las Personas, responsible for the voter rolls that were so contested in November 2009, would be reduced by 17%; the Tribunal Supremo Electoral would have its budget cut in half, perhaps in tribute to its role in the "success" of the November 2009 election;
  • smaller but still significant decreases were proposed for the Judicial branch; Instituto de la Propiedad; Empresa Nacional de Artes Gráficas (responsible for printing La Gaceta-- twice in the case of the Nacaome dam scandal); the Fondo Víal; and the Comisión Nacional de Energía.

Within the executive branch, the proposed budget makes several dramatic adjustments, which cumulatively give a sense of what cabinet offices are likely to have the resources they need to carry out existing programs or implement new ones. Juxtaposing these changes reveals troubling policy directions.

Remaining close to the same level: the Secretaría de Gobernación y Justicia.

Meanwhile, the Secretaría de Despacho Presidencial, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, Secretaría de Trabajo y Seguridad Social, Secretaría de Recursos Naturales y Ambiente, all are slated for budget decreases. The Secretaría de Agricultura y Ganadería will see a 15% decline in its budget.

While the Secretaría Técnica y de Cooperación Internacional would see its budget decline by more than 95%, a newly established Secretaría Técnica y de Planificación y Cooperación Externa, with a budget of 371,150,742 lempiras, would increase funding in this area five-fold. A Secretaría de Desarrollo Social y Red Solidaria which had no budget in 2008 would see an increase from 54,658,900 lempiras in 2009 to 532,289,371 lempiras in 2010.

Going up modestly are the budgets for the Secretaría de Educación; Secretaría de Salud; Secretaría de Seguridad; and Secretaría de Finanzas.

Most striking are a few ministries with greatly increased proposed resources. First among these is the Secretaría de Defensa Nacional, which oversees the Armed Forces, and will do so with 23% more budgetary resources if Lobo Sosa's budget is approved. The Secretaría de Industria y Comercio will see a 15% increase in budget to allow it to promote the interests of the business community.

One dramatic juxtaposition will give an example of the implications of such increases and decreases.

On the one hand, the Secretaría de Cultura, Artes y Deportes (Ministry of Culture) would see its budget decline 9% (to 244,354,800 lempiras), while the Secretaría de Turismo would see an increase of almost 50% in its budget (to 333,987,604 lempiras). Readers of our coverage of the Ministry in Culture's mismanagement under the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti will recall that the woefully inadequate appointee to that ministry, Myrna Castro, was confused about the respective roles of these ministries, criticizing the head of the Institute of Anthropology and History for declining tourism as if tourist development were the role of the Ministry of Culture. At least the Lobo Sosa administration appears to understand where to put its money if it wants to increase tourism, without ensuring professional research and education about national culture.

As part of its process of deliberation, Congress also received a delegation of cabinet-level officials charged with economic affairs who were charged to explain the need for a "paquetazo" of special economic measures. As reported in El Heraldo, the president of the Banco Central de Honduras, María Elena Mondragón, Minister of the Presidency María Antonieta de Bográn, and Secretary of Finance William Chong Wong, explained that
Honduras is bankrupt and that the coffers of the State have a 17,000 million lempira deficit, as well as a floating debt around 33 million lempiras.

Such a deficit is precisely what we projected based on the rate at which the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti burned through Honduran funds to avoid coming to terms with international disapproval of the coup d'etat. Now there's a price tag on the coup, if anyone cares to notice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No money from their American patrons might mean they oligarchy would have to start stealing from one another. With the kinds of cuts they're making, the society certainly won't be generating any wealth.