KURDISH DEMOGRAPHY : Kurdistan’s Population Growth Not Reflected in Iraqi Budget

23/10/2012 RUDAW By NAWZAD MAHMOOD and HEVIDAR AHMED – ERBIL, SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region — According to the latest statistics from the census offices in Erbil, Sulaimani and Duhok, the population of Kurdistan has reached 5.3 million.

However, Kurdish officials in the federal government and Kurdistan’s Ministry of Finance say the population increase has not led to an increase in the Kurdistan Region’s budget, even though the budget — distributed by Baghdad — is based on population density.

Rudaw has obtained copies of the statistics from the three provinces of the Kurdistan Region. They show that, by the end of August 2012, the population had reached 5,299,304. Mahmood Osman, director of Sulaimani’s statistics office, told Rudaw,“The population increase in Kurdistan is 3.5 percent annually. The population in towns outside the city center is increasing more sharply.”

As for family size, Osman was able to compare the three provinces. “Sulaimani has the smallest family size with an average of five members,” he said. “Erbil families have an average of six members and Duhok has the largest family size with an average seven members per family.”

Muzafar Tahir, the director of the Erbil Census and Data Analysis office, said the population of Erbil is now 1.9 million. According to their statistics, there are slightly more males than females in the province.  He said that Erbil grows by 2.9 percent on an annual basis. Tahir also noted that, according to censuses and data analyses, the population of Iraq and Kurdistan doubles every 36 years. This is to say that, by 2048, the population will reach 12 million. After the downfall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, when the Iraqi budget was under discussion by the interim government of Ayad Allawi, Kurdistan’s share in the Iraqi budget was set at 17 percent, even though the Kurds considered this amount smaller than their actual population.

“In determining Kurdistan’s share of the budget, they used food ration cards,” Rashed Tahir, Kurdistan’s deputy finance minister, explained. “The population of Kurdistan was considered 4.3 million.” Tahir is currently in Baghdad with a delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister Imad Ahmed to discuss Kurdistan’s share in the 2013 budget. “In the 2013 Iraqi budget, the Iraqi population is considered 34.4 million and the Kurdistan population is still considered 4.3 million, which makes Kurdistan’s population 12 percent of the Iraqi population,” he said. Tahir added that Baghdad has damaged Kurdistan by using this number, and said he has told Baghdad officials “this number is inaccurate. Now the population of Kurdistan is more than 5 million and this number [4.3] cannot be considered Kurdistan’s population any longer.” Dr. Ahmed Hassan, a member of Iraqi Parliament, believes talks with the Iraqi Ministry of Planning and MPs from the Arabic coalitions regarding the “unfair” treatment of Kurdistan in budget is “useless and fruitless.”

“First, a political agreement has to be reached about the issue,” he said.Dr. Hassan, who is a member of the Kurdistan Alliance and Iraqi Parliament’s finance committee, denies allegations that his committee has been silent about the wrong criteria being used to count the population.

“We know the number of the population has increased,” he said.” And we know we cannot tolerate playing with numbers when it comes to Kurdistan’s population. But what do we do? Nothing seems to be working.” Dr. Hassan added, “It has gotten to the point that we have to be thankful just for the 17 percent, because every now and again they come up with a justification to reduce that number.”

Debates take place regularly about Kurdistan’s budget. Some Arab MPs have tried to reduce the Kurdish population number every year with a different justification. But every year, the debates have ended the same way, with an agreement that the Kurdistan Region’s share of the budget will be 17 percent.

The population of Kurdistan’s provinces:b Sulaimani: 2,056,186 – Erbil: 1,927,118 –  Duhok: 1,316,000