Nigerien Coupists Cut Budget as Sanctions Bite

Members of a military council that staged a coup in Niger attend a rally at a stadium in Niamey, Niger, August 6, 2023. REUTERS/Mahamadou Hamidou NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

Niger’s military rulers have announced major budget cuts for this year, citing the international sanctions imposed since they seized power in a coup just over two months ago.

The country, one of the poorest in the world, relies heavily on foreign aid to support the 25 million population, but that has dwindled since soldiers ousted president Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.

“Niger is facing heavy sanctions imposed by international and regional organisations. They have resulted in significant revenue declines,” the military rulers said in a statement read on state television late Friday.

The 2023 budget had been slashed by around 40 percent to 1.98 trillion CFA francs ($3.2 billion) from 3.3 trillion francs initially, the statement said.

The junta-appointed prime minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, had warned that an austerity budget would be implemented, with a priority on ensuring funds for security and paying civil servant salaries.

Niger has seen inflation soar since the sanctions imposed against the coup leaders, and supplies of medicine are becoming sparse.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) banned trade with Niger in the wake of the coup and regional powerhouse Nigeria also cut off the electricity it has supplied.

Several Western countries have also slashed development aid to the regime, demanding the return of elected leader Bazoum.

But the military regime led by General Abdourahamane Tiani says it wants a maximum of three years before restoring democracy.

It is hoping to rely on sales of uranium, gold and oil to generate budget funds, and is seeking allies alongside Mali and Burkina Faso, where the military have also seized power.

France, the former colonial power in Niger as well as Mali and Burkina Faso, has said it will withdraw its troops deployed against Islamist insurgents in the country, following demands by the new leaders.