Angola parliament approves outlines of 2014 budget bill

LUANDA (Reuters) - Angola's ruling MPLA party used its majority in parliament to approve the outlines of the 2014 budget bill on Friday, defeating opposition parties that accuse it of spending too little to reduce poverty in Africa's No.2 oil producer.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, in power since 1979, has pledged to improve distribution of wealth in a country where a third of the population struggles in poverty while an elite enjoys vast fortunes.

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, but the opposition said Angola's social problems are so severe it must do more.

"There is a scary and shocking trench between the rich and the poor due to the absence of social justice and the generalised corruption that affects the country," Eduardo Kwangana, leader of the small PRS party, said in the debate.

Raul Danda, parliamentary bench leader for main opposition party UNITA, urged the government to cut defence spending.

"The budget bill doesn't escape the tradition of spending more on the defence, security and public order trilogy which, with 17.7 percent of expenditure, get more than health and education combined," he said.

The budget forecasts a deficit of 5 percent due to higher spending on infrastructure to help diversify an economy which depends on oil output for over 95 percent of its export income.

Angola has posted rapid growth since the end of a 27-year civil war in 2002, but the government has cut its growth figures for this year and 2012 due to weak budget execution.

It now predicts expansion will speed up to 8.8 percent in 2014 from 5.1 percent this year.

MPLA bench leader Virgilio de Fontes Pereira said the opposition had presented "a list of falsities and accusations".

"The MPLA and the government have done everything to secure better conditions and living standards for all Angolans despite a difficult global and regional context," he said.

The budget bill will now be discussed in parliamentary commissions, with a final vote be held by December 15.

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