BOGOTA, Feb 6 (Reuters) – Colombia’s government on Monday presented a $247.1 billion four-year development plan to the country’s lawmakers, laying out details of its projected social and economic investments.
The so-called National Development Plan must get the seal of approval from Congress, where leftist President Gustavo Petro has forged a coalition that comfortably passed a tax reform last year, although dissent has risen amid proposed reforms of pensions and the health system.
Development plans are generally financed with funds from annual budgets and royalties from oil and mining projects, as well as resources from municipalities and provinces across the country.
Petro, Colombia’s first leftist leader, has pledged to seek peace or surrender deals with armed groups, reduce poverty, improve access to education and health and protect the environment.
The development plan aims to cut the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty to single digits, use financial surpluses from coal and oil to secure transition to clean energy, and hand over nearly 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land to poor farmers to increase agricultural production.
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Passage of the plan would also grant Petro extraordinary powers to sign decrees or regulations on issues including closing or restructuring electricity companies majority-owned by the state, as well as the regulation of alternative uses of coca – the chief ingredient in cocaine – and cannabis.
Petro says he wants to end Colombia’s internal armed conflict, which has run for almost six decades, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.
He has promised to fully implement a 2016 peace deal with the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and has restarted negotiations with the leftist rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN).
Petro has also offered criminal gangs with ties to drug trafficking the chance to surrender in return for more lenient sentences.
Reporting by Bogota Newsroom; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell
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