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Iraq budget: Kurdish demands blanked, but boycotting MPs sense ‘opportunity’

By Rudaw 3/3/2018
Iraqi parliament in session. Photo: PM media office / file
Iraqi parliament in session. Photo: PM media office / file
BAGHDAD, Iraq — With Kurds continuing to boycott, the Iraqi parliament  passed its 2018 budget bill on Saturday afternoon after more than  three months of disputes. Some Kurdish MPs see this as an  “opportunity” that shouldn’t be missed.

Kurds claim their share is neither sufficient nor fair.

Sunni MPs participating in the session allowed for a quorum, which  their Kurdish counterparts see as a political coup.

“They have committed a coup against the agreements they made with us  in 2003,” Adil Nuri from the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) told Rudaw.

Nuri was not completely disappointed, however. He called on Kurds to  meet and make a decision to withdraw from the Iraqi government.

“Then they [Iraqi officials] will be obliged to knock our door. Let’s  not this miss this opportunity.”

The law consists of 58 articles. One of them obliges the Kurdistan  Regional Government (KRG) to return all the money it gained through  its export of Kirkuk oil.

Muthana Amin, the head of the KIU bloc, said the Kurdish parties are concerned that Iraq’s current budget bill only nets about 6-7 percent  for the KRG.

Kurdish demands

The bulk of Kurdish demands were not met despite mounting pressure on the parliament and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to increase  the KRG share from 12.67 percent to its original 17 percent.

Abadi has consistently said the 17 percent share was based on an outdated political agreement that his government will not remain  committed to.

Iraq’s budget for 2018 is about 104 trillion dinars [$88 billion]. The Iraqi budget operates with a deficit of 12.5 trillion dinars, or about  $10.58 billion. The budget is based on a projected oil price of $46  per barrel and a daily export capacity of 3.8 million barrels.

The KRG’s share stands at 6.6 trillion dinars, a monthly sum of 558  billion dinars. The KRG, however, has on numerous occasions said it  needs 850 billion dinars to pay its civil servants on a monthly basis. The economic crisis has forced the KRG to reduce this to 600 billion  dinars. There are 1.249 million people on the KRG’s payroll, according  to its figures.

Erbil says its revenues have been slashed by almost half since the loss of the Kirkuk oil fields to the Iraqi government in mid-October,  leaving the government with a net of $337.4 million (about 400 billion  dinars) for salaries after deducting essential expenses and payments to international energy companies.

Other demands of the KRG are the allocation of petrodollars to the provinces of the Kurdistan Region, the inclusion of the Peshmerga  budget in Iraq’s defense system, financial provisions for the recently  created Halabja province, and payments for oil companies working in  the Kurdistan Region. Baghdad, however, has not agreed to these demands.

Baghdad said earlier this month it will not cover the gross payments due to oil companies that have signed agreements with the Kurdistan  Region.

According to Masoud Haider, an MP for the Change Movement (Gorran), nothing has been allotted in the budget for the payment of oil companies operating in the Kurdistan Region, while 22 billion dinars  has been made available for companies working in other parts of Iraq.

The Kurds also demanded a reduction in Iraq’s sovereign funds by 40 percent.

Iraq’s sovereign funds cover expenses such as the defense budget, the Iraqi Council of Ministers, the Iraqi parliament, the Iraqi president,  and border guards.

Overall, 39 percent of the budget amounting to 41 trillion dinars goes to the sovereign funds. Of this fund the KRG receives nothing.

There were two main changes made to the bill.

First, the Kurdistan Region is now referred to as the “Kurdistan  Region” not “provinces of Kurdistan.”

Second, a budget has been allocated for Peshmerga salaries, but not for their operational needs.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said the 12.6 percent share will not cover the KRG’s expenses.

“[W]e’ve communicated to the federal government that the 6.6 trillion  [Iraqi dinars] (about $5.56 billion) that are currently in the 2018  draft budget do not suffice in our view to cover the needs of the  Kurdistan Regional Government. To that, in our opinion, these  transfers should be increased to about 10 trillion Iraqi dinars ($8.43  billion),” IMF Deputy Division Chief Christian Josz had told Rudaw.

Change Movement (Gorran) MP Haider issued a statement in the wake of  the budget claiming there is a deliberate desire to leave many of the  problems as they are.

He called on “Kurdish political leaders to discuss all options … to  reject this.”

Haider said they did their best to produce another outcome.

“We as Kurds on the financial committee have conducted many meetings  with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), the  International Monetary Fund, Iraqi high officials, parliamentary  presidency, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.”

He urged the reestablishment of Erbil-Baghdad relations.

“The International community and Kurdish and Iraqi friends should work to re-establish Erbil-Baghdad relations on the basis of the  constitution.”

Abadi has insisted that the KRG’s share should be less, in proportion to the Kurdish population, estimated by Baghdad to be 12.67 percent.

Kurdish MPs have not been willing to accept anything less than a  17-percent share.

There has not been a census in Iraq since 1987.

‘Dream won’t come true’ 

After passing the budget bill, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim  al-Jabouri said demands of the Kurdistan Region were included in the  budget.

He also said the parliament would monitor the economic situation in  the Kurdistan Region.

“What has been fixed in the public federal budget clearly stipulates  the resolution of the demands of the Kurdistan Region within the  framework of the budget, including what is associated with the  salaries of the Kurdistan Region civil servants,” said Jabouri.

He noted that the Iraqi government and parliament should take into  account the economic crisis that has engulfed the KRG, particularly  the matter of salaries and farmers’ income.

Kurdish farmers have not been fully compensated for the wheat crops  sold to Baghdad over the past three years, adding to a ballooning debt  owed to the Kurdish crop growers by the Iraqi government.

“Given measures taken to deal with the Kurdistan Region, the Iraqi  government and parliament will be committed to resolving all the  economic issues that the KRG has been going through, as part of  efforts to resolve the tough situation the state of Iraq is facing,”  Jabouri added.

A State of Law bloc MP told a press conference in Baghdad that the  Kurdistan Region’s “dream” of restoring its 17 percent budget share  “will not come true.”

Adnan al-Assadi said “the Kurdistan Region’s share has been earmarked  per population ratio and they will not be given any more.”

“The Kurdistan Region’s dream is to receive its previous share of the  national budget, but we are telling them very frankly – this dream  will not come true from today.”

He pointed out “there is unanimity inside the parliament that no  portion outnumbering their population ratio should be entitled to the  Kurdistan Region. On the contrary, any more going to them within the  framework of the 2018 budget law will not be voted on.”


Last updated at 10:15 p.m


Kurdo | 3/3/2018
You showed weakness once, and it will be used against you. It is better to die than show weakness against your enemy. Arabs, Turks and Persians are all against your existence. Never, never show weakness against them. I wish someone could explain for Kurdish leaders that is really in their interest to unite their people. We want independence, we want freedom, we want to kick out our enemies. We can, we are not afraid, but we have a weakness: our leaders are more interested to protect their clans or political careers. That is whay we lost our country and that is why we cannot get it back now. Unite and you will be free, don't unite and live as slaves in another 100 years. Just imagine if Kurds could unite, what a power we would be. Just imagine if we controlled entire Kurdistan, if our people didn't suffer. Just imagine even one singel day of freedom. Fortget about all religions, forget about ideologies, forget about money for a while, just for a while. Kurds are no cowereds, Kurds are real fighters, but why are we not united? Why is that so hard for us to accept each other as leaders, but we have no problem accept our enemies as our leaders?
It is our destiny | 3/3/2018
When will we learn that we are first and foremost Kurds? Our neighbors, the so called Muslim brothers have reminded us more than once, that we are Kurds. Numerous times in history, our neighbors and our so called brothers have proven that they are first and foremost nothing but fascists. You will be free when you have proven that you are self reliant, that you are united as a people and that your agenda is simple, free and independent Kurdistan. Educate and build your young generation. Trust no one who talks about protecting the national integrity of those pseudo states in the Middle East. The future is ours because injustice has been committed against us! Rise, fight and be free! Enough with. Baghdad, Ankara, Damascus and Theran! Only freedom will end the Kurdish tragedy!
help the kurds | 3/3/2018
kurdish natinalist | 4/3/2018
Next time hop isis takc over Iraq and kill everybody in Bagdad and beginingen with Abadi and his puppy goverment of terorrist sunny and shiea
Jay | 4/3/2018
Kurds are only good at backstabbing each other and letting the enemy get them at all times, the treason of the past referendum has brought Kurds 200 years backward. Kurds have been used and abused by Arabs using Islam to brainwash them and use them since the days of Salahaddin. If Kurds once for all realise that Islam is used to monopolize them, Islam is the religion made for Arabs, by Arabs, to serve Arabs, no one else. Kurds naivety and lack of unity has and will always make them an easy prey.

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