Living on a budget: Ministries downplay impact of reduced funding on their sectors

The draft 2010 state budget that the opposition has already branded as “a budget of resignation” reduces spending in different sectors of the economy, which, however, does not discourage the ministers in charge of these spheres.

Next year’s budget calls for an expenditure of a total of 859 billion drams (about $2.23 billion), which is by 75 billion drams (about $195 million) less than the budget revenue pattern that had been planned for the current year and by 21 billion drams (about $55 million) less than this year’s planned budgetary expenditure.

The Ministry of Local Government is not going to see a reduction in its budget unlike many other ministries. Speaking about financing in 2010 on Monday, first Deputy Minister of Local Government Vache Terteryan said that in the coming year subsidies to communities will be increased by 4.6 billion drams (about $12 million), totaling 32.5 billion drams (about $84 million), and a funding of 24 billion drams will be provided to Yerevan as a separate community.

The ministries of education, science, culture, sport and youth affairs, defense and a number of other ministries, however, have not had the luck of seeing their funding grow.

The ministers spoke about reductions in their spheres last week. Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Armen Grigoryan commented on the reduction of funding by 293 million drams (more than $760,000).

“Despite the reduction in the allocated funds, I am sure that we will be able to realize all necessary measures. Unlike the previous years, this time no funding has been allocated for construction of sport facilities. Not to stay where we are, of course, several sport schools will be repaired due to funds to be attracted from other sources,” said the minister during a press conference on November 6.

“The main stress will be put on funding the participation of athletes in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver,” said Grigoryan.

At a press conference on Saturday, Culture Minister Hasmik Poghosyan said that the sphere she is in charge of will receive a funding that will be by 355 million drams (more than $920,000) less than this year.

“There will be no shock in the sphere of culture because of the reduction of funding to the sphere as compared to the level of funding available this year. In a crisis situation, it seems that a self-defense instinct of the society starts to work, and the society itself understands that culture must be preserved. That is, the private sector has sponsored many spheres this year,” said Poghosyan.

Funding for the sphere of education and science will be reduced by more than 31 billion drams (about $80 million).

A reduction is also planned in expenditures of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thus, to economize money, it has been decided not to open new embassies of Armenia abroad in 2010.

“We hope that we will implement the project of opening embassies in 2011,” said Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan.

The main opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) recently issued a statement expressing a highly critical opinion about the planned budget for next year. It said that the budget “ignores the real problems and challenges facing our country.”