The dispute between the Iraqi and Kurdish regional governments that started over the September independence referendum has not abated. In fact, Prime Minister Haidar Abadi is attempting to impose a new status quo upon the KRG through things like the national budget.
Abadi recently said that the Kurds getting their traditional share of the budget was a thing of the past. In November 2017, the draft of the 2017 budget was introduced and cut the KRG’s share from 17%, which it had gotten since 2005, to 12.67%. It also addressed Kurdistan as three separate provinces rather than the KRG. The Kurdish cabinet immediately objected saying any reduction was a violation of the constitution. In January 2018, Abadi announced that he would not allow any changes to the Kurds’ allocation in the budget. He said that the KRG getting 17% was a thing of the past, and that now it would get a share based upon its population. In turn, Kurdish parliamentarians boycotted the January 3 session of the assembly.
For years, the Kurds have complained about the budget. They have always claimed they did not get the full 17%. That was true as Baghdad would regularly subtract various operational costs from that amount. On the other hand, there is nothing in the constitution that says the region should get that amount just that it should get an equitable amount. More importantly, Abadi is determined to change the relationship between Baghdad and Irbil. One major issue is budgeting and spending. The PM for example, said he was willing to pay Kurdish public employees, but their payrolls needed to be audited since like the rest of Iraq there are huge amounts of ghost workers. The KRG like Baghdad also lacks a lot of transparency after the budget is allocated, and the two main ruling parties the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan have always been accused of pocketing a large amount for themselves. Abadi may be called a hypocrite for demanding better governance in the KRG when he has not done the same within his own government, but he is still under pressure from Arab parties to punish the Kurds for the September independence referendum. It also looks like the prime minister is in no rush to end the crisis as he can use it in the 2018 elections. Kurdistan is also in a position of weakness with little leverage, so it will have to deal with this new status quo, and more fallout from its independence referendum.
Ali, Sangar, “KRG to handover oil, border revenues if Baghdad sends 17 percent budget share: Barzani,” Kurdistan 24, 11/6/17
Rudaw, “Abadi: I won’t allow the KRG to receive 17% budget share,” 1/2/18
- “Erbil rejects its reduced share in Iraq’s 2018 as unconstitutional,” 11/5/17
- “Kurdish Finance Minister: Baghdad Shortchanges Us,” 12/24/11
- “Kurdish, Sunni MPS boycott Iraqi parliament session over budget dispute,” 1/3/18
NINA, “Parliamentary Finance Committee: Budget of 2018 Replaced Naming (Kurdistan Region) To The Governments Of The Provinces Of The Region,” 11/4/17
Zebari, Abdel Hamid, “Opposition Parties Accuse KRG of Mishandling Budget,” Al-Monitor, 2/1/13