What, there is no job even for those deprived of a pension?

What, there is no job even for those deprived of a pension?

Azerbaijan’s state budget for 2024 is set to increase total expenditures by 2.94 billion manats, raising the projected budget to 39.71 billion manats, an 8% increase from the approved indicator, according to the Ministry of Finance. However, the amendments reveal a controversial reduction in social protection spending, sparking debate over the government's priorities.

The updated budget, influenced by the increase in the average annual export price per barrel of oil from $60 to $75, allocates additional funds primarily to reconstruction and restoration of liberated territories, as well as to law enforcement, prosecution, defense, and national security.

In stark contrast, social security and social protection expenditures are set to decrease by 150.8 million manats, or 3.3%. This proposed reduction challenges the government's portrayal of the budget as "socially oriented."

Rufat Guliyev, a member of the Milli Majlis Committee on Economic Policy, Industry, and Entrepreneurship, defended the budget adjustments, emphasizing the importance of national security and resettlement efforts in Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur. In an interview with Turan, he acknowledged the social welfare of the population as a priority but noted that budget changes can be made if necessary: "If we notice the need for changes in the social part of the budget in a few months, we will return to this issue."

Economist Natig Jafarli critiqued the government's definition of a "social budget," arguing that it does not align with international standards. "In our country, social expenses are considered as funds paid to salaries and scholarships. About 40 percent of the budget is socially oriented. In fact, salaries and pensions are an obligation of the state," Jafarli told Radio Azadlig. He pointed out that true social spending includes investments in social infrastructure, cultural recreation, and accessible services for low-income families.

Jafarli also noted the inevitability of increased funds for liberated territories, citing ongoing needs for substantial investments. He attributed the rise in law enforcement funding to recent decisions by the Cabinet of Ministers to increase payments by rank and potential increases in payments to Karabakh War participants. "It seems to me that there will be a decision to increase the minimum wage," he added.

Economist Togrul Valiyev echoed concerns over the government's priorities, noting that additional revenues are primarily directed towards construction and defense costs. "The problem here is that the authorities' priorities are different and not social policy," Valiyev said. He highlighted that reductions in public service, social protection, and cultural spending are problematic, indicating a lack of commitment to enhancing social welfare.

Valiyev emphasized that decreased costs in these areas reflect a broader disregard for social policy, with authorities showing reluctance to incur additional expenses or create new benefits. "In the middle of the year, they calculate that by the end of the year expenses will decrease. They show it as savings. In other words, we do not care about social policy. That is why the costs do not increase, but decrease."

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