Bud­get con­flict and Kur­dis­tan pipe­line

The Kurdish Globe - - EDITORIAL -

De­spite the fact that Iraq’s Cab­i­net ap­proved the $118.6 bil­lion bud­get in Oc­to­ber last year, in­fight­ing among Shi­ite, Sunni and Kur­dish fac­tions this week scut­tled at­tempts by law­mak­ers to pass the draft leg­is­la­tion in par­lia­ment. A dis­pute be­tween Bagh­dad and the au­tonomous re­gion of Kur­dis­tan over oil rights is the main cause of de­lay­ing this year’s na­tional bud­get.

The Iraqis have ac­cus­tomed to yearly ar­gu­ment over the bud­get and this year with­out ex­cep­tion the is­sue has again come to the fore, as the Iraqi par­lia­ment can­not de­cide on what pro­por­tion to give to each of Iraq’s re­gions. At the core of the mat­ter how­ever is the po­lit­i­cal dis­pute amongst the di­vided eth­nic and re­li­gious con­stituen­cies of Iraq. The most hotly de­bated as­pect of the budged at the par­lia­ment is about the share of Kur­dis­tan re­gion. Post­pone­ment of the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the bud­get 2013 is mostly due to the dis­pute re­gard­ing the share of the Kur­dis­tan. The State of Law Coali­tion, led by Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki, is try­ing to slash this share from 17% to 12%, which has led to ve­he­ment Kur­dish ob­jec­tions.

The dis­cus­sion and dis­pute over the bud­get may be seen a purely tech­ni­cal is­sue that due to the lack of proper cen­sus in Iraq re­sult in al­lo­ca­tion of bud­get to prov­inces that which province to get what pro­por­tion. How­ever it is not sim­ply a tech­ni­cal is­sue but used by the Al-Ma­liki government as a way of pun­ish­ment of Kur­dis­tan re­gion. More than that al­lo­ca­tion of Iraqi bud­get to Kur­dis­tan used by Ma­liki as a black­mail to force the Kur­dish au­thor­i­ties to give up on ter­ri­to­rial and oil dis­pute with Bagh- dad. A Kur­dish MP, Rawaz Khosh­naw, rightly ar­gued that “Ma­liki is try­ing to use the bud­get to twist our arm. It’s just a po­lit­i­cal tool that they are us­ing against the Kur­dis­tan re­gional government.”

It is the Iraqi cen­tral government that for a very long time have re­peat­edly post­poned the car­ry­ing out cen­sus in Iraq. Bagh­dad fears the cen­sus may re­lease the pro­por­tion of eth­nic com­bi­na­tion of dis­puted ter­ri­to­ries and strengthen the hands of Er­bil against Bagh­dad on ter­ri­to­rial is­sues.

De­lay­ing of budged have neg­a­tive ef­fect on Iraqi and par­tic­u­larly on Kur­dis­tan econ­omy. It is true that un­end­ing bud­get in­fight­ing each year is jeop­ar­diz­ing in­vest­ment in al­most in ev­ery­thing from trans­port to re­build­ing the econ­omy, and im­ple­ment­ing much­needed in­fra­struc­ture projects that mil­lions of Iraqis are ur­gently need­ing it is the Kur­dis­tan re­gion that suf­fers a lot. Kur­dis­tan econ­omy due to sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity at­tracted bil­lions of dol­lars lo­cal and for­eign in­vest­ments in var­i­ous fields and eco­nomic boom have be­come a norm rather than ex­cep­tion. Life stan­dards of the peo­ple of Kur­dis­tan since 2003 have con­sid­er­ably in­creased. A grow­ing mid­dle class now ap­pears in the re­gion.

Bud­get prob­lems that Bagh­dad ar­ti­fi­cially cre­ates is an at­tempt to im­pede grow­ing Kur­dish econ­omy and the grow­ing dif­fer­ences be­tween Kur­dis­tan re­gion and the rest of Iraq. In­deed in a short pe­riod of time suc­cess­ful eco­nomic poli­cies of Er­bil made a huge dif­fer­ences be­tween Kur­dis­tan and rest of Iraq from in­fra­struc­ture to pub­lic ser­vices. Ac­cess to elec­tric­ity and clean water is much bet­ter in Kur­dis­tan than other parts of Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki’s State of Law coali­tion is not the only bloc in Bagh­dad that tries to re­duce the Kur­dis­tan share. Sunni-backed Iraqiya Bloc and some other po­lit­i­cal blocs have also called last week for Kurds to get no more than 12 per­cent of the bud­get based on their pop­u­la­tion. Kur­dis­tan share of bud­get since the for­ma­tion of new government fol­low­ing the demise of Baath regime in 2003 have been 17 per­cent.

Kur­dis­tan re­gion government is right to de­velop an in­de­pen­dent eco­nomic pol­icy par­tic­u­larly on en­ergy sec­tor to re­buke Bagh­dad's at­tempt to di­min­ish Kur­dish econ­omy. To do so it is es­sen­tial that Kur­dis­tan to have its own pipe­line in or­der to ex­port its en­ergy sources to global mar­ket to have its own in­de­pen­dent bud­get should Bagh­dad ever tries to stop Kur­dish 17 per­cent.

An oil worker tend­ing to a sup­ply pipe­line in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan.

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