The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
It took even longer than last year, but the Iraq annual budget finally passed in parliament today with a solid majority.
Many aspects of the budget are similar to last year, with small increases to all the main posts, roughly following the draft that was introduced in December 2011. The big money still goes to the central government and Kurdistan, with some added perks for the ordinary governorates. It is noteworthy that spending on electricity is sharply up compared with 2011, which must be a good sign.
Some special features of the last-minute changes to the original draft call for comment.
The Sadrists had demanded a petrodollar scheme by which a portion of Iraqi oil revenues would go directly to Iraqi citizens. This idea has indeed been included and was celebrated by the Sadrists as a win for their leader Muqtada. However on closer inspection it seems the money that will actually go to the citizens is whatever surplus is left after deficits have been covered, meaning that unless the oil price increases enormously, there may not be that much money to distribute after all.
Money has also been specifically guaranteed for the sahwa pro-government militias in Diyala and Nineveh. This is a response to a demand from the Wasat sub-bloc of the Iraqiyya coalition, and some parliamentarians suggested it constituted the main concession by the government in obtaining Iraqiyya support for the budget.