TEMARU PROPOSES LEAN $377 MILLION TAHITI BUDGET

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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Nov. 16) – The Temaru government has proposed a 2008 preliminary budget of 161.4 billion French Pacific francs (US$2 billion/€1.35 billion) that has been described as rigorous and 11% lower than this year's twice-modified budget.

The emphasis is on spending and investing less next year, although no one knows whether the government led by pro-independence party leader Oscar Temaru since mid-September will be in power after next February.

The French Polynesia Assembly's Finance Committee will examine next year's proposed budget on Nov. 23 before submitting it to the full assembly for debate and adoption on Nov. 29.

The budget presented Thursday by French Polynesia Vice President/Finance Minister Antony Géros is 17.4 billion French Pacific francs (F CFP), or US$220.3 million/€145.8 million) lower than this year's twice-modified budget of 178.8 billion F CFP (US$2.3 billion/€1.5 billion).

Géros said the preparation of next year's budget had been "complicated by the political situation". As a result, he said, "We have not really had the opportunity to do planning."

He was referring to all of the attention focused by all political parties on the French state's proposed legislation now before the French Parliament aimed at reforming Tahiti's 2004 autonomy statute.

The legislation includes two rounds of elections for the French Polynesia Assembly's 57 seats early next year—Jan. 27 and Feb. 10. But politicians in Tahiti are already on the campaign trail anticipating the parliament's approval of the legislation by the end of November.

Géros said the emphasis in preparing the preliminary budget for next year was on "controlling public spending". As a result, the proposed budget calls for 131.6 billion F CFP (US$1.7 billion/€1.1 billion) in operating expenses, compared with 139.8 billion F CFP (US$1.77 billion/€1.17 billion) for this year.

"We're going to reduce public spending 5%," said Géros, who added that he wants to "set an example" by reducing the lifestyle of ministries by 25%". The Temaru government, which took office in mid-September, has 17 cabinet ministries, but the French state's proposed reform legislation would limit the number of ministries to a maximum of 15.

This is the third Temaru government since the last full assembly elections in May 2004. There have been two other governments in between the Temaru governments, creating the political instability that the French state has set out to end with its proposed reform legislation.

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