Bogota (Reuters) – Colombia’s congress on Tuesday approved an $85.5 billion budget for 2023, increasing spending for education, health and agriculture amid promises by leftist President Gustavo Petro to increase support for social programs.
The 405.6 trillion peso figure for the bill – the highest budget in the country’s history – was approved last month. Tuesday’s vote enshrined spending for individual programs and ministries.
“The approval of the budget is a victory of the government,” Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo told journalists. “It makes a significant increase in social programs, programs in favor of peace, of agrarian reform, education, health.”
Funding for education will rise 10.3% to 54.8 trillion pesos, while the health sector will see a 19.8% increase to 50.2 trillion.
The agriculture sector, which Petro wants to expand as part of a move away from oil and mining development, will see a 62.6% increase in funding, taking its coffers to 4.08 trillion pesos.
The defense sector will see a rise of 9.91% to 46.9 trillion pesos, while debt servicing will get its highest-ever level of funding, reaching 77.9 trillion pesos.
The bill received 71 votes in favor in the Senate, with seven against, and 144 votes in the lower house, with 13 against.
The funding uptick also incorporates required increases to public-sector salaries and pensions, which must move in tandem with inflation.
The ministry on Monday said it would not issue any more TES Treasury bonds via auctions this year because it already has sufficient funds, thanks to previous issuances and tax revenue.
($1 = 4,636.83 Colombian pesos)
(Reporting by Carlos Vargas, Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb. Editing by Gerry Doyle)