Colombia's congress approves $337 bln investment plan

by Reuters
Friday, 3 May 2019 13:34 GMT

BOGOTA, May 3 (Reuters) - Colombia's congress approved a four-year, $337 billion government investment plan late on Thursday, amid criticism from unions and opposition lawmakers that it does not provide enough funding for social and workers' needs.

The initiative, approved in the Senate just before midnight, seeks to boost economic growth to 4.5 percent a year by 2022 from 2.7 percent last year, as well as cut unemployment to 7.9 percent from 9.7 percent in 2018.

It also aims to lift 2.9 million people out of poverty and 1.5 million people from abject poverty and improve health, education and housing.

The so-called National Development Plan was approved in the lower house earlier on Thursday.

The funding project calls for the eradication of 280,000 hectares of illicit crops like coca, the raw ingredient of cocaine, a slowing of deforestation and a reduction in the homicide rate to 23.2 per 100,000 inhabitants from the 25.8 currently registered.

It will also allow the sale of ElectriCaribe, a unit of Spain's Gas Natural. The government ordered ElectriCaribe's liquidation in 2017 because of service provision failures after taking temporary control of ElectriCaribe's assets.

The plan provides funding to help Colombia's indigenous people, who blocked roads for several weeks from March to demand that the government meet commitments on social investments and land titling.

It also reduces the rate of VAT sales taxes on gasoline to 5 percent from 19 percent.

(1 dollar = 3,262.17 pesos) (Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra and Carlos Vargas Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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