Angola parliament approves 2014 budget bill in final vote

LISBON Thu Dec 12, 2013 3:42pm EST

LISBON Dec 12 (Reuters) - Angola's ruling MPLA party on Thursday used its parliament majority to pass a 2014 budget bill that opposition parties said allocated too little for health, education and non-oil business sectors, state news agency Angop reported.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has pledged to improve distribution of wealth in Angola, which is Africa's second-biggest oil producer but where 35 percent of an estimated 18 million people struggles in poverty.

The government says it has earmarked nearly a third of total spending of 5.3 trillion kwanzas (around $55 billion) for health, education and social support.

"With this approval, the state can contribute to better promotion and protection of rights, given the importance it gives to the social sector but also to justice in general," Angop cited MPLA bench leader Virgilio Ferreira as saying.

Opposition parties disagreed, saying they doubt the budget can resolve Angola's problems.

"(The budget) disdains important sectors such as education, health, agriculture and fishing," said Raul Danda, bench for leader for main opposition party UNITA.

Angola has posted rapid growth since the end of a 27-year civil war in 2002 thanks to an oil sector which represents over 95 percent of the country's export income.

The budget forecasts economic growth of 8.8 percent next year, compared to an estimated 5.1 percent in 2013.

The government expects to run up a deficit of 5 percent next year as it raises spending on infrastructure to help diversify the economy.

UNITA and other opposition parties have, however, accused Dos Santos - who has been in power since 1979 - of spending too much on defense and public order items while under-funding potential sectors such as farming and fishing. (Reporting by Shrikesh Laxmidas; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)