On April 3, 2009 the Presidential Council passed the $58.9 billion 2009 Iraqi budget. It was based upon 2 million barrels a day in oil exports at a price of $50 a barrel. In that month the country was only able to sell 1.82 million barrels a day at $47 a barrel. As a result, the country is expected to run anywhere from a $25 billion to $30 billion deficit. Parliament originally believed that this would be covered by the country’s large foreign reserves that had built up since 2005 due to rising oil prices and an inability of Baghdad to spend most of its money. The Finance Minister Baqir Jabr said this stands at $75 billion, $44 billion in the Central Bank of Iraq and $30 billion held by the Finance Ministry itself. On April 27 Minister Jabr however said that the government couldn’t use that fund. That was followed by the Central Bank announcing in May that it had turned down the government’s request to cover the deficit. That leaves Baghdad with only two means to make up the difference. One, it can hope that the Oil Ministry is able to boost oil production to bring in more money. That’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. The other option is for the government to get a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). That’s the route Baghdad is currently following.
It seems that parliament was completely unaware of the rules governing the budget when it was passed or were misinformed about them. There were several reports that lawmakers expected the budget deficit to be covered by the country’s reserves. It was only after that it was passed that the Finance Minister let them know that they could not use this money. The legislature either never talked to the Ministry or the Central Bank when it was debating the budget or were misled. In the end, parliament ended up passing a budget, almost half of which it can’t pay for. To make matters worse, it will go further in debt, borrowing money from the IMF to cover the difference, despite the fact that it has a massive reserve. Hopefully that can be used to pay the loan back, otherwise the situation will get worse in the next fiscal year unless petroleum prices skyrocket up again.
For more on Iraq's budget see:
Falling Oil Revenues, and Uneven Production
Baghdad Failing To Invest In Its Future
Presidential Council Vetoes 2009 Budget
Ups and Downs Of Iraq's Oil Industry And Its Implications For The Budget
Iraq's Budget Stalled
How Are The Current Provincial Councils Doing?
Iraq Revises Budget Once Again
Iraq Cuts Budget
Are Budget Cuts Ahead For Iraq?
Iraq's New Budget Woes
Iraq Cuts Its 2009 Budget, But Still Can't Spend It
NY Times Finds Iraq Spends Even Less Of Its Budget
GAO August 2008 Report On Iraq's Budget And Spending
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Agence France Presse, “Iraq presidency approves slashed budget,” 4/3/09
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Azzaman, “Iraq’s hard cash reserves estimated at more than $70 billion, minister says,” 3/18/09
Cockburn, Patrick, “Collapse in Iraqi oil price shatters hope of recovery,” Independent, 3/20/09
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