Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi [centre] attends a session of the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad on September 27, 2017 when they passed a set of measures against the Kurdish independence vote held by Erbil. File photo Karim Kadim / AP
BAGHDAD, Iraq – All Kurdish factions in the Iraqi parliament have decided to boycott Wednesday’s parliament session and future ones aimed to discuss the current “catastrophic” budget bill presented by the Iraqi government, the move comes ahead of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s visit to the legislature on the issue.
The main disagreement between the Iraqi federal and Kurdistan regional government is on the KRG’s share of the budget for 2018 with Erbil demanding 17 percent, while Iraq for the first time since 2003 wants to decrease it to 12.6 percent, a proportion that the International Monetary Fund has stated is not enough to cover the expenses of the Kurdistan Region.
Muthana Amin, the head of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) faction, reading a joint statement on behalf of all factions, told reporters that although Kurdish MPs have demanded a meeting with Abadi to discuss the budgetary disagreements, they have received only “negative and incomplete responses” from the central government, and that a meeting has not been offered.
Abadi on Tuesday said he was prepared to attend the parliamentary session on the budget on Wednesday.
“We believe that the attendance of the prime minister to the parliament without talks constitutes a political drama that will not produce any results on this issue,” Amin said.
The Iraqi government has so far escaped “serious discussion” on the matter, he explained.
“The budget that has been presented to the parliament is a catastrophic budget,” said the Kurdish MP, who attended the press conference in Baghdad with all other Kurdish factions.
“None of our factions … will approve it,” he said unless the two sides come to the table to meet the Kurdish demands.
The factions stated that they will boycott all such sessions in the parliament.
Kurdish and some Sunni MPs boycotted the Monday session in which the first reading of the budget took place.
Masud Haider, a Kurdish MP, told Rudaw at the time that he was optimistic that Abadi will listen to their concerns.
Relations between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments have reached their lowest levels, following the Kurdish vote on independence held in September, adding to a series of outstanding issues that go back as early as 2014 when Baghdad cut the KRG’s budget share because of its plans to export oil to the international market independent of Baghdad.
PM Abadi and his Kurdish counterpart Nechirvan Barzani held two meetings in January in Baghdad and Erbil, but no agreements were made including on oil and the budget.
Amanj Rahim, Secretary of the KRG’s Council of Ministers, told Rudaw earlier this month that the Kurdish oil exports — which Baghdad wants to bring it under its control — is related to Kurdistan’s share of the budget, a mechanism that will implement an oil-for-budget agreement.