“How can we pay for our daily needs and for our medicine, or to cover the needs of my children? Where are the revenues of our right in our oil?” said Hassan, who stopped receiving government payments more than four months ago.
Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi promised that parliament would push the Iraqi government for answers on where the money went. But he said new funding for the nation’s social care programs will have to come out of the 2011 budget, which he said would be sent to parliament within days.
He said the Finance Ministry recently alerted parliament of the cash drain. A Finance Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media put the 2010 welfare budget total at about $1 billion. He would not say what caused the shortfall.
“We will ask the government about this — if there is any carelessness or delaying these payments,” said al-Nujaifi, a Sunni member of the Iraqiya political alliance.
“They kept our millions in their pockets,” said Mizher Abdul Majeed, 49, a farmer in the northern town of Mosul, referring to the payments that have been made to politicians. His bank refuses to cash the Iraqi Trade Ministry-issued checks that pay for his wheat. “How can we prepare for the coming planting season?”
The four-hour parliamentary session was otherwise largely taken up by procedural issues since lawmakers still can’t take up the most politically meaty issue before them — approving a new government.
(Source: Associated Press)