Niger’s military rulers have announced significant budget cuts for this year, attributing them to the international sanctions imposed since they took control in a coup just over two months ago.
The country, one of the poorest in the world, heavily relies on foreign aid to support its population of 25 million. However, such aid has dwindled since soldiers ousted President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.
“Niger is facing heavy sanctions imposed by international and regional organisations. They have resulted in significant revenue declines,” stated the military rulers in an announcement broadcasted on state television late Friday.
According to the statement, the 2023 budget has been reduced by approximately 40 percent, from an initial 3.3 trillion CFA francs ($3.2 billion) to 1.98 trillion francs.
The junta-appointed Prime Minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, had cautioned that an austerity budget would be put in place, prioritizing the allocation of funds for security and civil servant salaries.
Since the sanctions were imposed against the coup leaders, Niger has experienced a surge in inflation, and there’s a growing scarcity of medicine.
Following the coup, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) prohibited trade with Niger, and regional powerhouse Nigeria also terminated its supply of electricity.
Several Western nations have likewise reduced development aid to the regime, demanding the return of elected leader Bazoum.
However, the military regime, led by General Abdourahamane Tiani, has expressed its intention to take up to three years before reinstating democracy.
The regime is pinning its hopes on the sale of uranium, gold, and oil to generate budgetary funds, and is seeking alliances with Mali and Burkina Faso, where the military has also taken control.
France, the former colonial power in Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, has stated its intent to withdraw its troops deployed against Islamist insurgents in the country, in compliance with the demands of the new leaders.