Iraq's parliament seeks to meet urgent need for funds overturning top court's ruling

Bickering over forming a new government has delayed ratification of the budget

Iraqi lawmakers attend a session of parliament in Baghdad on 30 March, 2022. EPA
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The Iraqi Parliament's Finance Committee submitted a bill on Wednesday allowing the government to seek 27 trillion Iraqi dinars ($18.5bn) for urgent needs, in contravention of a ruling by the nation's top court.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi’s caretaker government submitted in March the draft to the legislative body to enable it to meet the mounting need for funds by the different departments of government.

This year's budget has been shelved amid an ongoing political deadlock.

On Sunday, the Federal Supreme Court ruled the caretaker government has no authority to create legislation and present it to parliament, or strike agreements that could influence Iraq's future.

A new version of the bill presented by the legislative body’s Finance Committee was supported by the signatures of 50 lawmakers, the committee chairman lawmaker Hassan Al Kaabi said in a statement.

The Iraqi constitution sets three ways in which legislation can be presented to parliament.

Bills can be proposed by the Cabinet of an existing government, by the president, by at least 10 lawmakers or by any of the parliamentary committees.

“This bill is for the citizens,” deputy parliament speaker Hakim Al Zamili said on Tuesday. “It will cover the social protection scheme, buying wheat from farmers and allow the electricity ministry to continue importing natural gas and paying for debts.”

The bill could be approved on Thursday, he said.

The revised version of the bill seeks to allocate 8tn dinars to the trade ministry to buy wheat from local farmers and international suppliers and to keep the government-run food ration programme going.

It also sets aside 10tn dinars to develop projects across the country, as well as 3tn dinars for the electricity ministry to buy gas from Iran to run the country's power turbines.

On Monday, the government warned that without this law, its ability to maintain vital services such as electricity, water and school construction will be compromised.

The delay of this year's budget has limited the monthly spending to about 8 per cent of the 2021 budget of 130tn dinars.

Allegations of poll fraud in October's general election delayed the convening of parliament until January.

Rival power blocs are still in a standoff over the distribution of government posts.

The main obstacle to forming the new government is enmity between Shiite populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, whose Sadrist Bloc emerged as the clear winner with 73 seats in the 329-seat parliament, and some of his Iran-backed Shiite rivals.

Updated: May 18, 2022, 1:45 PM