Parliament fails to approve budget

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By Nidhal al-Laithi

Azzaman, March 31, 2014

Iraqi deputies have once again failed to pass 2014 budget with many of them staying away when the budget proposal was brought up for discussion.

The current parliament has only three weeks before its current term comes to an end.

The failure to pass the budget has almost cripple the government’s ability to spend, with many companies, both local and foreign, putting their activities on hold.

The last session needed only 20 more deputies for it to start voting on the budget.

Those staying away were mainly Kurdish deputies who support their regional government’s stand vis-à-vis oil development and oil exports.

At least 35 more deputies from the national alliance also stayed away, apparently taking the Kurdish side of the debate.

“It is almost certain that the budget will be referred to the next parliament” which will not convene until the middle of May, said Hyatham al-Jibouri, a deputy.

Iraq is to hold general elections by the end of April but the resignation of the committee supervising the vote has thrown the ballot into doubt.

“The cycle of the economy will come to a halt,” he warned.’

Jibouri estimated

Jibouri blamed differences between the Kurds and the central government for the parliament’s inability to approve the 2014 budget.

The sides differ on the quantity and royalties of oil produced within the Kurdish region, with the government saying that the Kurds had sold oil worth $24 billion without it approval.

The government wants that sum to be deducted from the Kurdish share of oil royalties of 17% of what it earns on each barrel sold on international markets.

The Kurds claim that their three autonomous provinces consumed more than 100 million barrels of their own oil domestically last year. The government disputes the figure saying that the volume is more than what the rest of the country consumed last year.

Baghdad demands that the Kurds place their oil fields, output and exports directly under the supervision and control of the Oil Ministry, the thing the Kurds are not willing to do.

In response, Baghdad has stopped oil royalties to the Kurds and is reported to be considering slashing their share of the hard cash it earns from oil exports.