PANAMA CITY – Panama’s Congress on Monday approved the biggest government budget in the country’s history, which topped $16.3 billion for 2013.
Members of the political opposition criticized the figure, saying it would create unmanageable debt for the country.
Lawmakers approved the budget by a vote of 39 to 12.
Officials said the 2013 budget will help balance expenditures, income and Panama’s debt, and is based on two-digit growth projections, due mainly to large infrastructure projects whose costs are expected to top $15 billion in the next five years.
“The country is experiencing significant economic growth that permits the government to collect more [taxes] and have a bigger budget,” Panama’s Economy Minister Frank De Lima said.
The budget earmarks almost $8 billion for education, health, jobs, housing and other social services, plus $2 billion for general services, more than $1.7 billion for servicing the public debt and $1.2 billion for infrastructure projects.
However, members of the political opposition say the country’s biggest budget ever is a political move to win 2014 elections.
Panama’s 2012 budget topped $14.5 billion, an 11 percent increase over 2011.