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Passage of borrowing law ‘problematic’ for Kurdish relations with Baghdad: Iraqi Parliament Deputy Speaker

The Iraqi parliament’s deputy speaker has told Rudaw that the approval of a contentious borrowing law despite Kurdish opposition is “problematic” and endangers future collaboration between Kurds and other groups in Baghdad.

The parliament passed the Financial Deficit Coverage bill Thursday morning without the participation of Kurdish MPs, who left the session over a clause obliging the Kurdistan Region to hand over an unspecified amount in oil revenues in return for a share of the budget that would pay its civil servant salaries.

According to the law, Baghdad will borrow 12 trillion Iraqi dinars (10 billion USD) from the central bank in an attempt to cover the state’s fiscal deficit and pay civil sector employees.

Deputy speaker Basheer Haddad called out the decision to pass the law as “problematic” and dangerous for future cooperation between Kurds and other parties in Baghdad.

“The entirety of Iraqi politics is endangered….. because if this continues, it means that cooperation is nonexistent. In which case our [Kurdish] presence there will always lead to our disadvantage for they will always address us using numbers and the concepts of majority and minority,” he told Rudaw’s Sangar Abdulrahman on Thursday.

Haddad is a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

“The Shiite bloc and the parliament speaker told us to attend the meeting and they will delay voting on that section concerning the Kurdistan Region,” MP Viyan Sabri told Rudaw’s Nalin Hassan on Wednesday.

“However when we accepted and entered the meeting, they disregarded their own statement.”

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been unable to pay its civil servants in full and on time for five years, due to a financial crisis, the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) and a drop in oil prices. It relies on Baghdad to pay its employees, but Baghdad has cut its cash flow to Erbil as it says it is violating a 2019 oil-for-budget agreement.

Some Kurdish MPs have said that the KRG should cooperate with Baghdad on oil-for-budget agreements.

“The KRG has been negligent toward the agreements with Baghdad,” said Gorran MP Bahar Mahmood in a Thursday interview with Shahyan Tahseen.

“We (Kurdish MPs) have told the KRG previously that if they do not abide by the agreements, the federal government will cut the budget share,” she added. “The KRG could have at least abided by the agreements for a month or two in order to show good will.”

Haddad went to speak with Shiite MPs during the meeting, asking them to delay the vote in hopes of negotiating a deal in the meantime.

“I told them we are not worried about the current bill specifically, but about its consequences,” he said.

“They turned down my request to delay the voting on that section after some MPs got up and claimed that if they do not vote, the Iraqi street will call them traitors and stand against them saying they have agreed with Kurds,” he added.

“We are worried that these actions will eventually lead to a lack of understanding and collaboration between the political parties in future meetings and votes,” Haddad added.

“We are currently having meetings with Kurdish parties and are in touch with President Barham Salih’s office,” Haddad said. “We will not leave this, and will continue to negotiate, and I am hopeful that people’s salaries for 2020 will not be lost.”

The deputy speaker also pointed fingers at Shiite parties and blamed them for “creating propaganda” to drive division between the KRG and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

“They have told their people that the KRG is responsible for the lack of services and the situation facing Iraqi cities…. Certain Shiite parties attempt at hurting Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi’s office by creating this propaganda hoping to ruin any cooperation between the KRG and Kadhimi’s cabinet,” he said. Source