Niger cuts 2023 budget by 40% as post-coup sanctions bite

NIAMEY (Reuters) – Niger has cut its planned spending for 2023 by 40% because of international sanctions imposed after the military took power in a July coup, further hobbling the economy in one of the world’s poorest countries, the junta said in a televised statement on Saturday.

This year’s budget, initially forecast at 3.29 trillion CFA francs ($5.3 billion), was slashed to 1.98 trillion, the statement said, without detailing where the cuts would fall.

Soldiers from the presidential guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26 and have set up a transitional government, one of a series of recent coups in West Africa’s Sahel region.

The takeover prompted condemnation from the regional bloc ECOWAS, the European Union and the United States, who imposed sanctions, froze assets or halted aid.

A trade blockade has driven up the price of food and created a shortage of vital goods including life-saving medicines. But it does not appear to have dulled popular support for the junta at home, where many were fed up with the hardship and perceived corruption experienced under the Bazoum regime.

Niger, an arid country on the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert, is the world’s seventh-biggest producer of uranium, the radioactive metal widely used for nuclear energy and treating cancer.

It is also beset by poverty and long-running insecurity caused by violent Islamist groups. It is hugely dependent on aid. According to its original projections, around 40% of this year’s budget was expected to come from external partners.

($1 = 618.2500 CFA francs)

(Reporting by Abdel-Kader Mazou; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by David Holmes)