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.
Iraqi parliamentarians have been on a week-long holiday since they passed the annual budget for 2012. Meanwhile, Iraqi media have given Iraqi politicians a chance to vent their anger regarding items in the budget about which they had second thoughts.
The first days after the passage of the budget, the debate was dominated by signals that some in the government, especially those close to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, were unhappy with the failure of parliament to pass article 36 of the budget which would have given the government greater freedom with respect to spending money. There were even suggestions that the government would bring the matter before the supreme federal court – based on the argument that the annual budget is a special case of legislation for which article 62 of the Iraqi constitution imposes limits as to how much parliament can do in terms of editing (basically nothing much beyond moving money from one post to another).
Furthermore, it has emerged that it was the financial committee headed by Haydar al-Ibadi, a Maliki ally, that played the leading role in abruptly adding articles to the budget on the day of voting subsequent to the cancellation of article 36, including some that seemed nonsensical or out of place (for example, a stipulation that scholarships abroad be distributed evenly between governorates). Was some of this last-minute added matter a deliberate move to make the budget vulnerable to challenges in the supreme court so that the government could regain article 36 if it wanted? One can wonder, especially since the cancellation of a single article on spending hardly goes beyond what the constitution allows for in terms of transfers (i.e. the equivalent of nullifying something), and also since it has been done before (in the 2011 budget, article 22 cancelled the “social spending” of the three presidents also through a last-minute change).