Iraq: Budget battles continue as bill remains stalled

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ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has denied any changes to the budget bill after the head of the parliament’s financial committee claimed an amendment had raised the Kurdistan Region’s share.

“The government has not amended any section in the budget bill recently, nor has it increased any amount of money,” said Saad al-Hadithi, spokesperson for Abadi’s office.

The budget bill was sent to the parliament two weeks ago and only that legislature can amend it, he explained.

Hadithi was responding to comments from Ahmed Haji Rashid, head of finance committee in the Iraqi parliament.

“The Iraqi government has agreed to increase the Kurdistan Region’s share from 12.67 percent to 14 percent. But we don’t know about the stance of the KRG on this matter,” Rashid had told Rudaw.

The contentious 2018 budget bill currently before parliament has put the Kurdistan Region’s share at 12.67 percent, down from the 17 percent share the autonomous region has traditionally been allocated. Abadi said the lower amount reflects the Kurdistan Region’s population size, but no census has been done.

Rashid said that work will continue to raise the Kurdistan Region’s share, but said “This is not easy, especially when Sunni demands are fulfilled in the budget bill.”

Sunni MPs representing heavily war-damaged provinces have also contested the draft budget. They have demanded resumption of salary payments to public employees who have security clearance after the ousting of ISIS from their territories, and for funds for displaced families wanting to return home.

Kurdish and Sunni lawmakers have boycotted parliamentary sessions when a vote on the bill came up, preventing the legislature from passing the motion because it lacked quorum.

MPs have accused Abadi of using the budget to bolster his re-election campaign after he refused to meet with the president and the parliamentary speaker.

Iraq will hold parliamentary elections on May 12.

 

Crossposted from: http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/250220181