Baghdad, Erbil trade barbs ahead of budget talks

Undated photo of Erbil city (NRT Digital Media)

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SULAIMANI — Officials in Baghdad and Erbil have traded accusations of unsettled debts in recent days, as budget talks are set to begin in earnest in the coming weeks.

Earlier in the week, Spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Jutyar Adil alleged that the federal government was not transferring funds to pay for public sector employees, although he did not immediately provide evidence to support his claim.

On Friday (September 13), Abdul Hadi al-Saadawi, who sits on Council of Representatives’ Finance Committee, shot back that it was the Kurdistan Region that owes the federal government money, since it has not been sending oil to Baghdad for export.

Adil’s claims “no basis at all,” he said.

Al-Saadawi argued that an expected budget shortfall could have been mitigated if the KRG had complied with the terms of the 2019 Federal Budget Law. He also said that Baghdad was missing out on customs income collected at the border crossing points in the Kurdistan Region.

On Saturday, the Council of Representatives began its autumn legislative session, which is expected to largely focus on budget issues.

Under the terms of the 2019 Federal Budget Law, Baghdad was supposed to send 12.67 percent of the total budget to the Erbil, in return for 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day. When oil transfers failed to take place, the federal government cut payments down to only what it was required to send by law, specifically salary payments for public sector employees in the Region.

Frustration has been building on both sides with each accusing the other of failing to live up to the agreement.

Nevertheless, in public statements, leaders in the two capitals have praised their ostensibly better relations and sounded optimistic notes that the issue can be solved. A senior-level joint committee has been tasked with working out a solution.

(NRT Digital Media)