Iraqi MPs still haggling over 2014 budget

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By Abbas al-Baghdadi

Azzaman, October 19, 2014

The Iraqi parliament has once again failed to approve 2014 budget as row over allocations for the Kurdish autonomous region and its oil industry and exports intensifies.

Following a protracted debate the budget was forwarded back to the cabinet, parliamentary sources said.

Iraqi MPs are now supposed to be debating 2015 budget but nearly 10 months into 2014 they are still haggling over this year’s budget.

The inability to approve the budget shows the deep divide in the Iraqi political scene despite attempts by Prime Minister Haider Abadi to form what looks like a unified national government.

The country’s ministries have been running their own affairs in the absence of budgetary allocations for 2014.

The stunning advances made by Islamic State (IS) militants nearly five months and their occupation of large swathes of north-eastern parts of the country have forced the government to earmark massive sums for defense, purchase of weapons and payment of hundreds of thousands of tribesmen who volunteer in the fight against IS without parliamentary approval.

The parliamentary Finance Commission says the differences between Baghdad and Arbil, the seat of the Kurdish regional government, have been behind the failure to approve the budget.

“The oil differences between Baghdad and Arbil are the main reason for the delay,” said Masoud Haider, a commission’s member. “The issue concerns the volume of oil exports from the Kurdish region and the type of penalties that should be imposed (on it) in case it refused to export” oil in line with central government’s directives.

Another senior MP who is part of the coalition led by Abadi said the government itself had not sent the revised budget proposal to the parliament for approval.

“The government has delayed forwarding the budget to the parliament on purpose in the hope that outstanding issues between Baghdad and Arbil will be solved,” said MP Riyad al-Saadi.

However, the Kurdish bloc in the Iraqi parliament denied Kurdish demands were a reason for the delay.

“The budget was sent back to the cabinet for revision and inclusion of amendments suggested by the Finance Commission,” said Kurdish MP Baston Adel. “Sending it back to the cabinet has nothing to do with differences between Baghdad and Arbil.”