Panama 2008 Budget Backs Social Spending

Panama, Nov 21 (Prensa Latina) Panama's National Assembly approved the largest domestic budget ever for next year, $8.3 billion that will stress public social expenditures.

Economy and Finance Minister Hector Alexander said the sum is owed to a positive economy and is ready for President Martin Torrijos to sign.

Panama, with a population under four million, will end 2007 with an economic growth of nearly nine percent, and the new budget is aimed at improving Panama's very poor income distribution.

Alexander said they expect a GDP deficit below one percent and savings will play a key role in funding investments to reduce the weight of debts.

A State budget total of $5.6 billion and investments $2.7 billion will leave over $4 billion, 49.2 percent of the budget, to boost food aid programs and access to the Internet for schools, as well as the cleanup of Panama Bay.