TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – The Honduran government is pushing to grant concessions and sell shares in its ailing public utilities to ease its growing public debt and pay companies and workers clamoring for their salaries.
Honduras, one of Central America’s poorest countries, closed 2012 with a deficit of 6 percent of GDP, its second highest in ten years. The fiscal gap was exceeded this decade only in 2009, when a military coup ousted former president Manuel Zelaya.
The lack of budget resources and growth in outstanding payments has fueled protests since the end of 2012, with thousands of public employees taking to the streets to demand their pay.
More than 100 infrastructure projects have been suspended by construction companies for non-payment and firms that supply drugs and services to state hospitals have threatened to suspend their services over growing debts.
President Porfirio Lobo is seeking to attract private investment to capitalize the state-owned National Company of Electric Energy, ENEE, and the Honduran Telecom Company HONDUTEL, which, like the National Port Company ENP, operate with losses that cannot be covered by the state.
”The government is making an effort to deal with the problem so that we can have the stability we need to honor our debts in the coming months,” said Julio Raudales, minister for planning.
He said one of the government’s biggest problems was the ”fiscal gap” at HONDUTEL, ENEE and ENP, which notched losses of $15 million, $200 million and $6 million respectively in 2012.
Raudales also said the country hoped to boost its tax take through improved collection and by closing some of its tax exemptions, which deprive the government of about $1.15 billion a year.