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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (December 28, 2000 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---New Caledonia's local Congress on Wednesday passed a 2001 budget of 80 billion French Pacific Francs (US$ 621 million), RFO radio reports.

However, about 75 percent of the 2001 budget will not remain in the coffers of the territorial government. It will be re-distributed to the French territory’s three provinces and municipalities, with the territorial government retaining only 22.5 billion CFP (US$ 174.7 million).

Another important part of the 2001 budget, five billion CFP (about US$ 38.8 million), will be devoted to infrastructure development, including roads and public works at large.

Another 150 million CFP (US$ 1.164 million) was earmarked to support New Caledonia’s agriculture sector, including cattle and squash pumpkin farmers.

The new year will also see the introduction of new taxes, including four percent on goods and services.

Existing taxes on tobacco and liquor were raised respectively by up to six percent and one percent, to fund increasing health services needs. The increased taxes are expected to raise an estimated 58 billion CFP (US$ 450.3 million) to the territory’s receipts for 2001.

The Congress passed the appropriation bill with votes from the ruling majority (consisting of the anti-independence RPCR Rally for New Caledonia within the French Republic- and its coalition partner, FCCI -Federation of Pro-Independence Coordination Committees).

Other parties represented in the Congress, including the pro-independence FLNKS (National Kanak Socialist Liberation Front), UC (Union Calédonienne), FN (National Front) and Alliance parties voted against the bill.

Contrary to the previous financial year, however, so-called "support funds" were cancelled, a move the RPCR/FCCI majority labeled as "re-focusing" on the French territory’s "real competencies."

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