UN Chief Proposes New Budget to Trim Expenses

UNITED NATIONS -- Facing unyielding U.S. pressure to slash costs, the UN chief proposed a new budget that would cut 500 jobs and trim expenses by about 7 percent.

The United States welcomed the proposal Friday. Washington is withholding an estimated $1.5 billion from the organization, partly to pressure it to cut costs and increase efficiency.

In a budget outline released Friday, Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali proposed spending $2.4 billion for 1998 and 1999, a 6.9 percent reduction in real terms from the previous two year budget.

The figures do not consider inflation and currency fluctuations.

U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright called the outline "an important and responsive step toward ... fiscal reform'' and said Washington would fight for the adoption of a budget based the proposal when it comes before the 185-member General Assembly next year.

Most of the savings are expected to come from staff cuts and increases in efficiency, UN chief financial officer Joseph Connor said.

The current 1996-97 budget cuts 1,000 workers from the 10,000-member headquarters staff. The new proposal would eliminate 500 additional jobs, said Connor.

Most of the 900 staff members who have already left did so largely through buyout plans, retirement or job changes, Connor said.

The proposed budget would cut staff costs by 16 percent and administrative and management charges by 13 percent.

The United Nations is trying to increase its efficiency to compensate for the staff cuts, Connor said. For example, he said the 19-step procedure for hiring new workers has been cut to seven.