In Rudaw 

KRG deputy PM: Budget talks with Baghdad ‘going very well’

Hours ahead of an expected parliamentary vote on Iraq’s 2021 budget, the deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Region said talks with Iraqi political parties are “going very well.”

Deputy PM Qubad Talabani has led the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) budget discussions with Baghdad, repeatedly visiting the Iraqi capital over the past few months to hammer out a deal over Erbil’s share of federal funds.

He reached a deal with the Iraqi government in December, but has yet to convince lawmakers who are expected to vote on the budget bill on Friday.

“So far, it has been going very well,” Talabani told Rudaw’s Sangar Abdulrahman as he walked out a meeting with the legislature’s finance committee. “I hope we can reach a good conclusion tonight.”

They want to reach a deal “that can be implemented,” he added.

Iraqi lawmakers have criticized the Kurdistan Region’s independent oil sales, with many wanting Erbil to hand over all of its oil to the State Organization for Marketing Oil (SOMO) in exchange for federal funds.

Bashar Kiki, deputy head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) bloc at Iraqi parliament, told Rudaw’s Halkawt Aziz that the KRG and financial committee “reached an agreement.”

Committee members are “currently writing the text,” he added, without going into details on the agreement reached.

The KRG’s Minister of Planning Dara Rashid, recently told Rudaw they are ready for either options – a deal with Baghdad or no deal. “In case of a disagreement, which we don’t even like to talk about, the Kurdistan Region [will] depend on its incomes, oil, and non-oil,” he said.

The budget has been a point of contention between Erbil and Baghdad for years, especially after the KRG began independent oil sales through Turkey.

Both governments have also seen revenues drop due to low oil prices last year. The KRG is unable to pay its civil servants on time and in full, while the Iraqi government has took out loans from the Central Bank to pay salaries for the last three months of 2020. Baghdad also devalued the dinar in December.

The recent increase in oil prices has eased some of the financial burden on both governments.

The parliament whittled down the deficit in the budget from 71 trillion dinars to 28.6 trillion dinars.ACX