Children swim in the trash-strewn Shat al-Arab river in Basra. Photo: Tom Peyre-Costa/NRC
BAGHDAD – A Basra MP in the Iraqi parliament says she and her colleagues will not vote for the 2019 budget unless it dedicates petrodollars for the troubled province.
Five dollars from each barrel of oil produced in the oil-rich province must be dedicated to Basra, MP Zahra Bijari said.
She also wants to see half of all customs fees collected in Basra to be dedicated to the province.
Basra borders Iran and Kuwait and also is home to Iraq’s only seaport.
"Basra province generates a lot of good for Iraq," Bijari said, noting that the province paid a large price in the war against ISIS. Many Hashd al-Shaabi recruits come from the southern province.
Basra has 25 representatives in the 329-seat parliament. The province is one of Iraq’s richest in terms of natural resources but unemployment and poverty is high. Deadly protests rocked the province this summer, driven by anger over corruption, lack of services, and crumbling water infrastructure that contributed to a health crisis.
Related: 277,000 Basra kids at risk of contracting water-borne diseases: NGO
Parliament voted this week to form a joint committee with the government to revise the budget that was prepared by the former cabinet.
Kurdish politicians and Sunnis have also criticized the draft.
Kurds say it contains many of the same shortcomings of previous budgets, including reducing the Kurdistan Region’s share and not giving the Region its legal recognition.
Sunnis have said the bill is unfair towards their war-ravaged provinces.