Political disagreements freeze Iraq’s budget bill

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Deep disagreements between the two main Kurdish parties in power in Iraq’s Kurdistan region are the main cause of the delay in the parliamentary vote on Iraq’s 2023 budget bill.

The plenary session of Iraq’s new parliament was held on January 9, 2022 in Baghdad, Iraq. After the October 10 parliamentary elections, {Getty}.

Negotiations on Iraq’s 2023 budget bill have been postponed after the deputy speaker of the parliament suspended the legislature’s finance committee over legal irregularities and the passing of a joint agreement between the federal government Iraqi and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

“Our committee has been suspended according to a document from the deputy speaker of the Iraqi parliament, because the members of our committee are now 24, while according to the law the number should not exceed 23,” Jamal Kochar, Iraqi lawmaker from the Islamic Union of Kurdistan (KIU). ) and a member of the Iraqi parliament’s finance committee told The New Arab in a telephone interview.

“Political agreement is needed before resuming negotiations on Iraq’s 2023 budget bill. The bill has been stuck in the finance committee because the political agreement between Govt. Iraqi and the KRG”.

The finance committee announced some amendments to the budget bill on Saturday, including a condition that the Kurdish region must first hand over 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) to federal authorities, along with non-oil revenues, before can receive a share of approximately 12% of the federal budget.

A group of the finance committee of the Iraqi parliament has introduced changes to the draft federal budget, violating the agreement with the prime minister. @mohamedshiathe government.

The agreement is the basis of cooperation between Erbil and Baghdad and the word of the parties must be respected -mb.

– Masrour Barzani (@masrourbarzani) May 26, 2023

Another amendment states that the KRG should allocate 10% of its share of the federal budget to pay wage cuts for its public sector employees. In addition, the changes stipulate that Kurdish oil revenues should be deposited “in an account of the Iraqi Ministry of Finance, in the Central Bank of Iraq,” instead of an international bank account as previously agreed.

The federal government in mid-March sent the draft three-year budget to parliament. The Iraqi federal government and the KRG in early April signed a agreement on reviving oil exports to Turkey, Iraq’s budget bill and further discussions on a new federal oil and gas law.

Masrour Barzani, the Prime Minister of the KRG of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) on Saturday rejected the amendments of the finance committee. Shakhawan Abduallh, vice president of the Iraqi parliament of the KDP, has ordered the suspension of the finance committee, invoking legal irregularities in the number of committee members.
Kurdish opposition parties in the Kurdistan region, as well as the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a main part of the government and rival of the KDP, have supported the finance committee changes.

Last week, KDP and PUK lawmakers clashed in the Kurdistan Region parliament in Erbil over the revival of the KRG’s electoral commission, after the two rival factions disagreed on renewing the mandate of the commission to oversee the parliamentary elections scheduled for November 18. .

Sudani, from the Shiite community, was chosen to form the new government on October 13 after months of fighting between pro-Iranian factions and parties loyal to Iraqi nationalist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.

He is backed by the Coalition for State Administration, which is an alliance of powerful pro-Iran Shiite factions, Sunni factions led by al-Halbusi and two key Kurdish parties, the KDP and the PUK.

The Coalition for State Administration is expected to meet on Monday afternoon to discuss the Kurdistan region’s quota and approve the budget bill in parliament.

Ankara stopped handling 450,000 bpd of exports from northern Iraq on March 25 after an international court ruled in a nine-year dispute that Baghdad was right to insist on monitoring all Iraqi oil exports.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)-led tribunal ordered Turkey to pay Baghdad $1.5 billion in compensation for allowing the KRG to export oil between 2014 and 2018 without the Iraqi government’s consent.

The KRG cut nearly 25 percent of its public sector salaries in 2014, when oil prices plummeted and Kurdish fighters battled the Islamic State group. In 2016, the KRG halted wage increases for its employees without the approval of the region’s parliament.

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