Economic woes spark government cutbacks

Niger has announced that economic austerity measures will be put in place as result of reduced government revenues, and poor economic performance thanks to the impact of a recent military crisis and strikes by public workers.

In a press statement issued on Friday after the weekly cabinet meeting, the government said revenue levels over the last three months were "worrying".

The situation had brought about "a severe budgetary restriction, demanding the implementation of special budgetary regulations that will, unfortunately, affect the whole expenditure," it added.

Minister of Dinance and Planning Ali Badjo Gamatie said customs receipts had dropped from US $29.9 million in the first financial quarter to about $28 million in the second, and to $26 million in the third.

Other fiscal receipts dropped from $22.4 million in the first quarter to about $17.9 million in the third, he said.

The government said that a recent mutiny by troops had affected the flow of foreign aid - a serious matter in a country where some 60 percent of the national budget of $371 million is dependent on aid.

The cabinet has directed Gamatie to take essential steps to ensure that Niger's commitments to donors are respected, according to Friday's statement.

Prime Minister Hama Amadou had earlier said that salaries would be paid 10 days late for the next four months.

Public servants have complained about the move. "Even if we understand the situation, it is difficult for us to make new sacrifices after all that we endured over 10 years, particularly the low salaries and living standards," said a civil servant in Niamey.

Union officials from the Union Des Syndicats Des travailleurs du Niger and the Confederation Democratique des Travailleurs du Niger told IRIN that workers expected two month's salary "by the end of September".

In August, the government warned the trade unions that it would not bow to any pressure from workers, after four labour federations threatened to call strikes to press wage-related demands.