Baghdad to Reduce Kurdistan Region’s 2013 Budget

30/11/2012 RUDAW –  By HEVIDAR AHMED – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Although Iraq has increased its budget for 2013, the portion allocated to the Kurdistan Region is less than last year.

In the coming days, Iraqi Parliament will debate next year’s budget, estimated to be approximately 113 trillion dinars — the largest budget in the country’s history.Thirty percent of the budget will be dedicated to government foundations.     Ahmad Faizulla, deputy chair of the finance committee in Iraqi Parliament, has called on officials in the Kurdistan Region to question Baghdad about the considerable increase in the amount designated for government foundations. “Baghdad has been deciding on the general budget independently and it has decreased the budget for the Kurdistan Region without being held accountable,” he said. Last year, the Kurdistan Region received 17 percent of the budget.

Faizulla said that Kurdistan Region’s budget has increased by 2 trillion dinars since last year, but that is still 7 percent less than what it received in the past.

Previously, the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad had agreed that Kurdistan would receive 17 percent of Iraq’s total budget annually until the general census was conducted. However, the census has been postponed since 2007, and Baghdad officials say the Kurdistan Region has illegally filled Kirkuk with Kurds.

Rashid Tahir, deputy finance minister for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), told Rudaw, “Iraq’s total budget has increased by 21 percent this year; however, the KRG’s portion has decreased.” He said that even though Kurdistan Region will not receive a sufficient amount, there is nothing that can be done about it. Last month, a delegation from the Kurdistan Region visited Baghdad to discuss the budget. “The central government agreed that as of next year, the KRG can participate in planning Iraq’s budget,” Tahir said, adding that at the moment no one oversees Iraq’s spending.

The budget has always been one of the main issues between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region. Baghdad refuses to provide a budget for the Peshmerga even though they are defined as the “Kurdistan Region’s guardian” in the Iraqi constitution and are part of the Iraqi defense system. Article 9 of the budget outlines how a budget for the Peshmerga should be provided based on three conditions. When the three conditions are met and the central government and Kurdistan Region reach an agreement, parliament is to pass a law in this regard and the budget is to be provided. However, most believe that the conditions are impossible to meet and this gives Baghdad an excuse to withhold the budget. Faizulla expressed doubt that Baghdad will provide the Peshmerga with a budget this year. “The conditions are an excuse to withhold the budget,” he said. “There will be no agreements between Baghdad and the KRG nor will any law be passed by parliament in this regard.”

He added, “The Peshmerga are clearly mentioned as part of the Iraqi defense system in the constitution. However, every year, Baghdad refuses to provide the budget under different pretexts.”“Since 2005, Baghdad has withheld a total of 131 trillion dinars for the Peshmerga budget,” Tahir said.  He added that since the Peshmerga budget is approved in Iraq’s budget every year, Baghdad is obligated to provide it.  Iraq’s main budget revenue comes from oil exports. Iraq must export just under 3 million barrels of oil a day in order to meet its budget for next year. The Kurdistan Region exports 250,000 barrels as part of Iraq’s oil exports.