In Rudaw 

No budget dispute deal announced as KRG delegation visits Iraqi parliament

The Kurdistan Region delegation to Baghdad visited Iraqi parliament on Wednesday to update the body on negotiations between Erbil and Baghdad regarding the Region’s share of the federal budget. Minimal details have been released on the progress of the talks, but one member of parliament has told state media that “no deal” has been reached.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani visited the legislative body on invitation from Parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi. The KRG is heavily dependent on its share of the Iraqi budget, and has said it cannot pay civil servants without its fair share of federal government money. The Region’s public employees have gone without salaries for much of 2020.

“We are currently trying to agree on the salaries that were not given in 2020, once we reach an agreement on that, we will then move on to Kurdistan Region’s share in the 2021 budget,” Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Basheer Haddad told Rudaw’s Abdulsami Zubeir on Wednesday.

The KRG delegation arrived in Baghdad last Wednesday to settle the prolonged budget dispute between Erbil and Baghdad amid rising tension and civil servant protests in the Kurdistan Region earlier this month.

Hassan Shakir, head of Badr Organization in Iraqi parliament, told state media on Wednesday that no deal has been reached between government representatives as of Wednesday. He claimed a deal could only be reached if the KRG offered more transparency about their operations.

He added that no one knows which banks the KRG uses for their oil revenue.

Islamic Union of Kurdistan MP Muthanna Amin also called for greater transparency.

“I suggested that an integrity committee be sent to Erbil to look into the KRG files, in order to ease the process of negotiation” Amin told Rudaw’s Shaho Amin on Wednesday, also proposing that salaries be sent directly to the Kurdistan Region civil servants themselves from Baghdad.

Five Shiite MPs expressed their support for his suggestion at a press conference on Wednesday.

“We are empathetic toward Kurdistan Region employees for they are also part of Iraq, and we want to reach an understanding for their sake,” said Yousif al-Kilabi, a member of the Parliamentary integrity committee in the press conference.

The already-existing budget dispute was further complicated in November with Iraqi parliament’s passing of the Fiscal Deficit Coverage Bill. Kurdish MPs staged a walk-out, angered over the obligation of Erbil to hand over an unspecified amount of oil in exchange for the Region’s budget share for the last two months of the year.

“We are here to implement what is in the fiscal deficit bill that was passed,” Qubad Talabani told the media from Baghdad on Monday. “We are ready to abide by the points of the bill and are only waiting for Baghdad to tell us how much the Kurdistan Region budget share is in return for us abiding by it.”

The Fiscal Deficit Coverage Bill covers the salaries for civil servants in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region for the last two months of this year. Source