By Zuber Hewrami – RUDAW – 12.12.2013 – WASHINGTON DC – Kurdish lawmakers in the Iranian parliament resigned on Wednesday after seeing the 2014 draft budget, in which they said the government has reduced or eliminated spending for all vital and important projects in Kurdistan Province.

“Even though I don’t believe that resignation will bring any change, the benefit of this action is that the government will hear the objection of the MPs,” Iranian-Kurdish MP Hamed Qaderwarzi told reporters in Tehran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presented his first budget to parliament on Sunday, which sets a $256 billion ceiling, depending on government revenues. He allocated $66 billion for government expenditure, pledging to bring down inflation and boost growth.

According to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Kurdish MPs said that all vital and important projects in the Kurdish Province have been reduced or eliminated in the draft budget for Kurdistan Province. The MPs fear that the region, already among the country’s most deprived and poorest, will lag behind the rest of the country.

The Kurdish MPs believe that the new budget suggests that Rouhani is backtracking on campaign promises to treat the Kurdish province as a potential region for growth. “President Rouhani made a few promises to the people of Kurdistan, but in the budget we don’t see any sign of his promises, especially for development projects,” Qaderwarzi said. The mass resignation of Kurdish parliamentarians comes just days after 18 MPs from Iran’s southern Khuzestan province also resigned over the draft budget.

Abdollah Tamyomi, the deputy head of the Khuzestan MPs group, told Parliament: “According to earlier agreements, the administration has promised to allocate a special line of credit to address problems in many underprivileged cities of Khuzestan, but the proposed budget failed to address this matter.”

“Meanwhile, the administration and the president have taken unacceptable steps toward transferring water from the Karoon River sources to other parts of the country, which is leading to further destruction of agriculture in Khuzestan,” Tamyomi said in a speech in parliament. But the Khuzestan MPs returned to parliament on Wednesday, after parliament speaker Ali Larijani stepped in to resolve the dispute. In a speech to parliament that was aired live on Iranian state TV, Rouhani said: “Employment is the most important future issue for the economy, but now the biggest problem is (tackling) inflation.”

He also blamed some of the country’s woes on former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose policies resulted in most of the severe economic sanctions imposed by the international community, bringing the Iranian economy to its knees.

“The combination of stagnation and inflation over the past two years was unprecedented,” Rouhani noted. Western sanctions on Iran in the past few years have caused serious inflation. But a new deal between Tehran and the West that was signed in Geneva last month is believed to relieve some of the pressure on Iran’s battered economy.

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