The Colombian Congress has approved the national budget for the year 2024, which is set at 502.6 trillion Colombian pesos. The final approved figure doesn’t entail many changes compared to the government’s initial proposal, although it represents a 19% increase, nearly 80 trillion pesos, compared to the available capital in 2023. Out of the total of over 500 trillion pesos approved, 19%, or 94.5 trillion pesos, will be allocated to debt payments.
The sectors of Education, Health, and Defense will receive the most resources for the coming year. However, the opposition, which presented an alternative budget that was rejected, expressed doubts about the fiscal sustainability of the approved numbers.
Tense Debate in the Senate
The debate in the Senate took place in a highly tense atmosphere, mainly due to the opposition’s criticism of what they perceive as an increase in the deficit, with items that are difficult to collect and are listed as income in the document presented by the Ministry of Finance.
Nevertheless, the government managed to secure sufficient support in plenary sessions to have its general budget proposal approved. The project’s report states that 308.1 trillion will go to operating expenses, 94.5 trillion to debt payments, and 100 trillion to investments. As a percentage of the GDP, the total budget is equivalent to 29.6%.
Regarding funding sources, according to what the Colombian Congress approved, 317.4 trillion will come from current revenues, 140.8 trillion from capital resources, 15.2 trillion from special funds, 3.1 trillion from parafiscal contributions, and 26.1 trillion from the revenues of Public Establishments.
Taxation has been one of the most controversial points in the parliamentary discussion, specifically the section on special funds, as the opposition questions the certainty of obtaining and sustaining these funds in the future. They argue that these funds rely on legal disputes that will generate temporary resources for the state only if these legal disputes are won.
For the opposition, this would increase the already significant fiscal deficit in the country, a point that was heavily criticized during the previous government’s tenure, under President Duque, by the current administration.
In this regard, Miguel Uribe Turbay, a senator from the opposition Centro Democratico, stated that “the government wants to break the fiscal rule with this budget because it is expanding the margin to incur more debt.” According to Uribe Turbay, this would lead to “an unsustainable level of spending and debt.”
Detailed Budget Breakdown
According to calculations from the Ministry of Finance, 308.2 trillion (61.35%) will be allocated to operating expenses, and 99.8 trillion (19.72%) will be for investments. Additionally, 509 billion will be used for commissions and other expenses, and 1.4 trillion will go to the contingency fund.
The ministries that will receive the most money in 2024 are Education (70.4 trillion), Health (61.5 trillion), Defense (56 trillion), Finance (47.5 trillion), and Labor (44.3 trillion).
On the other hand, the lowest allocated amounts are for Intelligence (202 billion), Science and Technology (399 billion), Public Employment (582 billion), and the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Non-Repetition (913 billion pesos).