File photo: Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid speaks during a news conference at the Peace Palace inside the Green Zone, in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, June 18, 2023. AP
Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid ratified the budget, which has a projected deficit of $48 billion. Parliament last week voted on the draft, six months into the fiscal year and after months of negotiations.
The main sticking point during the talks was the distribution of oil revenue between the central government in Baghdad and the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region in the north. The approved draft consolidates Baghdad’s authority over the oil sector and allocates 12.6 percent of the revenue to the Kurdish region.
The Iraqi Kurdish local government will be allowed to sell its own oil but will have to deposit the revenue first in a bank account that officials from the central government can monitor. Baghdad will then deduct that amount from its monthly allocation to the Kurdish regional government and transfer any surplus money to it.
According to an official in Baghdad, the government expects the Kurdish region’s oil exports by way of the Turkish port of Ceyhan — halted for several months due to legal disputes — to resume next week at a rate of 400,000 barrels per day. The official spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.
Iraq's president hailed the budget as "a turning point for the government’s implementation of its program, which includes securing the necessary needs of citizens, providing basic services such as health and education, rehabilitating the infrastructure and initiating vital and strategic projects.”
The budget, which was also approved for 2024 and 2025 in the same amounts, includes substantial spending on increasing public wages and investing in reconstruction projects that have suffered from years of conflict. It also has provisions for raising salaries of public sector employees and the conversion of contracted workers into permanent public employees.
Meanwhile, the country's Interior Ministry announced the openings for 37,100 members of the police force, for three-year periods with a monthly pay of 500,000 Iraqi dinars — about $377. It was looking for Iraqis between 18 and 22 years of age.
The budget’s rosy revenue projections and more than half a million new positions in the public sector have drawn criticism.
Abdulsalam Hassan, an Iraqi researcher and economist, said the state’s expenditures were already too high and that the new budget “resembles a ticking time bomb that will have detrimental effects on Iraq’s delicate economy.”
The IMF in a recent report warned against “fiscal loosening” and a heavy reliance by Baghdad on oil revenues. The IMF also urged the Iraqi government to implement a stricter fiscal policy.