By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Military rulers in Niger have announced major budget cuts for the 2023 fiscal year, citing the regional and international sanctions slammed on the land-locked country since they seized power in a coup just over two months ago, ousting the democratically elected government of Mohamed Bazoum.
With a population of 25 million, Niger depends on foreign aid to fund its budget.
“Niger is facing heavy sanctions imposed by international and regional organisations. They have resulted in significant revenue declines,” the military rulers said in a statement read on state television late Friday.
The 2023 budget had been slashed by about 40 percent to 1.98 trillion CFA francs ($3.2 billion) from 3.3 trillion francs initially, the statement said.
Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, who was appointed a Prime Minister by the junta had said that an austerity budget would be implemented, with a priority on ensuring funds for security and paying civil servant salaries.
Niger has recorded soaring inflation since the sanctions imposed against the coup leaders in July and supplies of medicine are becoming sparse.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) banned trade with Niger in the wake of the coup and regional powerhouse Nigeria also cut off the electricity it has supplied.
Several Western countries have also slashed development aid to the regime, demanding the return of elected leader Bazoum.
But the military regime led by General Abdourahamane Tiani says it wants a maximum of three years before restoring democracy.
It is hoping to rely on sales of uranium, gold and oil to generate budget funds, and is seeking allies alongside Mali and Burkina Faso, where the military have also seized power.
France, the former colonial power in Niger as well as Mali and Burkina Faso, has said it will withdraw its troops deployed against Islamist insurgents in the country, following demands by the new leaders.