In Rudaw

Iraqi parliament committee meets PM Kadhimi for talks on contentious borrowing bill

Members of the Iraqi Parliamentary Financial Committee met on Monday with prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, as a parliamentary vote on a contentious bill to borrow money for government salary payments looms.

Members of the committee met with the Iraqi premier on Monday to discuss the details of the Fiscal Deficit Coverage bill, and the steps required to pay the salaries of civil sector employees. Shortly after the meeting, Kadhimi’s spokesperson Ahmad Mulla Talal showed optimism about the meeting in a tweet.

“A positive atmosphere dominated by a sense of shared responsibility prevailed during the meeting between the Prime Minister, Mr. Mustafa al-Kadhimi, with the Chairman and members of the Parliamentary Financial Committee,” he said. “We look forward to the vote on the Fiscal Deficit Coverage Act next Thursday to start releasing employee salaries,” he said.

The Iraqi government has not yet come to an agreement with the Financial Committee on the amount of money it needs to borrow to fill the deficit. Government reduced the amount of money it wants to borrow from 41 trillion Iraqi dinars ($34.2 billion) to 30 trillion ($25 billion), but some parliament blocs remain unsatisfied.

“The amount of money we need to borrow for the upcoming months does not exceed eight trillion Iraqi dinars ($6.6 billion), so why is the government asking for 30 trillion dinars?” asked Naim Abudi, spokesperson of the al-Sadiqoun bloc in a Monday press conference.

“We are on board when it comes to borrowing money in order to pay salaries, but not at this high a level,” Naim said. “We believe that this is an obvious waste of money.”

There have also been “differences of opinion” within the committee itself on the amount the bill asks for, the committee’s leader told Iraqi media outlet al-Sumaria late last month.

“We are divided into three groups. One fully supports the bill, another stands against it, and a third party maintains a neutral stance,” said head of the committee Ahmad al-Saffar.

The government only needs to borrow 15 trillion dinars, Saffar added.

Prime minister Kadhimi addressed opposition to the bill in a Monday tweet, saying “some are trying to use the liquidity crisis as political material.”

“I look forward to the cooperation of parliament to pass the financial measures to start paying salaries and building our country,” he added.

If parliament passes the bill on Thursday, the government is set to pay the salaries of its employees next week.

The amount to be borrowed includes a 320 billion dinar ($267 million) a month share for civil sector employees in the Kurdistan Region.

“We find it necessary to dedicate the budget for the Kurdistan Region, but in return the Region needs to deliver the oil income and border crossing incomes to the central government,” financial committee member Thamer Thiban told Rudaw’s Halkawt Aziz. Source