After lengthy debates, the Iraqi Council of Representatives approved the federal budget for 2009, totaling $58.6 billion, after cutbacks to many of its sections amounting to 7 percent, or $4.5 billion. This reflected positively on the deficit, which dropped from over 30 percent to 27 percent.
The Council of Representatives reduced the salaries and allowances of the presidencies of the federal government, Cabinet, Council of Representatives and Higher Judiciary by 20 percent, and those of representatives, ministers and advisors by 10 percent. It also reduced government expenditures, including purchases, while keeping employee salaries, retiree pensions, ration card allowances and some important sections the same.
At a press conference following the session, president of the Integrity Committee, Sabah Al-Sa’di, said the Council took bold decisions in the 2009 General Budget Law, describing the Council’s continued budget discussions over the past few days as progress in its performance of its legislative and supervisory role. He pointed to a $4.5 billion reduction in the overall budget, emphasizing the need for judicious spending amid the global financial crisis and its impact on Iraq due to low oil prices.
Al-Sa’idi said the Council of Representatives required the government to provide the previous years’ final accounts by June 1, 2009, and to abolish all non-constitutional institutions by May 1, 2009. The Ministry of Finance will follow up on this and submit a report to the Council of Representatives. In addition, the Council voted down clauses, added by the government, prohibiting citizens from being appointed to state positions or hired under contract. The Council insisted on keeping the door open to citizen appointment to state institutions. Al-Sa’idi described this as a major development in terms of the sense of responsibility towards society’s issues and putting citizens’ interests first.
The federal budget will be subject to further review in the coming months, after the government submits the supplementary budget together with the final accounts for previous years. Designated Council of Representatives committees will review the budget’s terms and clauses.
Approval of the 2009 federal budget by the Council of Representatives is certain to move reconstruction forward by stimulating investment, allocations for which the Council sought to leave intact. The current budget will also help the economy cope with challenges due to the decline in oil prices and the search for development alternatives.