Iraq’s parliament inches towards approving 2019 budget

Iraq’s parliament is inching closer to approving the 2019 budget.

In a session on Thursday, lawmakers finished their discussions on the draft bill.

The document had originally been penned by the former administration of then premier Haider al-Abadi. It was rejected by the new parliament and sent back to the administration of new Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi for revisions.

The main complaints were from Sunni lawmakers who said their war-ravaged regions were not given enough funds and Kurds who said the Kurdistan Region was not given its proper share.

Until the budget is approved, Baghdad can only spend each month one-twelfth of its previous budget. Iraq’s fiscal year matches the calendar year.

Talks between Kurdish lawmakers and Abdul-Mahdi’s team appeared to make good progress. They are expected to have resolved issues around payments of public sector salaries and the financial entitlement of the semi-autonomous region. Other issues may be left to be resolved in next year’s budget.

The Kurdistan Region’s Council of Ministers will meet on Monday. The top item on the agenda will be the Iraqi budget, Rudaw has learned.

The Iraqi parliament on Thursday also swore in another minister. Nawfal Baha Musa, a Christian, is the migration minister. He was approved by the legislature on Christmas Eve.

Shaima al-Hayali, the only woman in Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet, was approved by the parliament as education minister on the same day as Musa, but she resigned less than a week later because of accusations her brother had worked for ISIS. A replacement has not been confirmed yet.

The ministries of defence, interior, and justice are also still leaderless.

In other business, Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi directed the legislature’s foreign relations, security, and defence committees to investigate “allegations of an Iraqi delegation [visiting] the Zionist entity,” read a statement from the parliament.

Several Iraqi lawmakers allegedly made a trip to Israel recently. Iraq does not have official relations with the Jewish state.

Halbousi also asked the same three committees to form a joint committee to investigate the situation in Shingal.

There are numerous armed groups and political factions vying for control of the Yezidi heartland, which is still in need of major investment for reconstruction after ISIS. Many Yezidis from Shingal are still displaced from their homes.

Parliament will reconvene on Saturday. Source