CARACAS Oct 14 President Nicolas Maduro on
Friday signed off on Venezuela's 2017 budget, drawing fire from
the opposition-led National Assembly which accused the unpopular
leftist leader of despotism for bypassing the legislature.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed Maduro to put forth
the budget without lawmakers' approval, overriding a
The opposition, which is trying to unseat Maduro as
Venezuela wrestles with a deep economic crisis that has families
skipping meals, says the government is trying to undermine it to
keep its grip on power.
"I have the 2017 budget ready!" Maduro told cheering
red-shirted supporters, as he held up the document and vowed to
pour money into social projects, pensions, and salaries for
"Long live the people! Long live the civil-military union!
Long live the support from the streets!"
The budget is around 8 trillion bolivars, roughly $8 billion
dollars at the black market exchange rate and almost six times
this year's budget amid raging inflation.
"BURYING THE CONSTITUTION"
The opposition said the budget lacks legitimacy as it is to
be approved by the Supreme Court's constitutional chamber,
rather than by the national assembly, as the constitution
"They're burying the constitution, which will very soon
recover thanks to the recall referendum," said opposition
lawmaker Jose Guerra on Twitter, referring to a push to remove
Maduro via a plebiscite.
Not consulting congress on Venezuela's debt plans for 2017,
which are meant to be presented in tandem with the budget, could
spook bondholders, including those considering an ongoing debt
swap offer by state oil company PDVSA, analysts said.
A future government would have a "strong legal argument"
that debt contracted in 2017 would not be legitimate because the
National Assembly did not sign off on the Annual Indebtedness
Law, Francisco Rodriguez, chief economist at Torino Capital LLC,
said in a note to clients this week.
Maduro said the OPEC nation's budget put the price of oil at
$30 per barrel next year. Venezuela routinely underestimates oil
prices when planning its budget to permit more spending later
with fewer budget restriction.
"We've put the oil barrel's price between low and moderate,
although we know it's going to recover," added Maduro, whose
government has been pushing for an OPEC deal to boost prices of
its key export.
(Additional reporting by Corina Pons; Editing by Andrew Hay)