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The Killid Group
Parliament blinks, approves budgetWritten by Mohammad Reza Gulkohi
Sunday, 29 April 2012 15:25
There is disappointment that Parliament has capitulated after the government refused to bend on two major amendments in the budget.
Twice this year Members of Parliament (MPs) sent the draft budget for 2012 back to the government saying they wanted to see more monies allocated for development. The draft budget was miserly in its treatment of the provinces and generous with money for the president’s office.
On April 21, Parliament approved the budget even though the government had not made any major changes.
People have lost faith in the government, comments Waseq Husaini, an economics lecturer at Kabul University. “The approval of the budget showed the instability of decision-making in Parliament instead of showing the strong supervisory role of legislature,” he points out.
Head of the parliamentary budget and financial commission, Engineer Kamal Safi, had said while rejecting the budget, that it “showed a lack of balance” and ignored the “basic needs of drafting”.
Later Monawar Shah, MP from Herat, said the budget was returned a second time recently because the changes requested by Parliament had not been incorporated.
According to Mohammad Sarwer Osmani, MP from Farah, the provinces had not been treated equally. “An unjust division has taken place. If the budget for Badkhshan was 200 million dollars (for instance), the budget for Paktia, Zabul and Panjsher should be 80 million dollar (each) not 20 or 23 million dollars.”
MPs had demanded a reduction of 15 million dollars each in the budgets for the president’s office and central bank; also an allocation of 137 million dollars for the construction of mosques in all provinces, and an increase of 50 million dollars in the budget of the Ministry of Higher Education.
The budget was skewed against the people, observed Shukria Paikan, MP from Kabul. “No work has been done to prevent the destruction of embankments on the Amo river, which annually (floods and) destroys peoples lands.”
In spite of the criticisms, the Finance Minister made only slight changes. MP Sayed Husain Alami Balkhi confirms only “some suggestions made by the parliamentary commission have been approved”. The MPs had requested that the development budget must be fairly divided among the provinces.
Why did Parliament approve the draft budget? Habiba Danesh, MP from Takhar, says MPs had no choice. It was either that or Parliament would be held responsible for the lack of progress in development projects this year because of paucity of funds – a point made by Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhelwal when he submitted the draft budget to Parliament for the third time.
Why did the Finance Ministry not budge?
The ministry claims the request of donors was pivotal to the framing of the budget. Officials denied they were influenced by the president’s office. Finance Minister Zakhelwal addressed Parliament. On the demand that the Finance Ministry must slash by half the budget allocations of Kabul Bank and the president’s office, he said: “We have to consider the requests of our donors otherwise they would cut their assistance.”
Earlier Mustafa Mastoor, head of budget department in the Ministry of Finance, said in a press conference that Parliament has rejected the budget because MPs were peeved their “privileges” were not met.
Speaker Abdul Rauf Ebrahimi dismissed the allegation. “No MP has requested an increase in privileges.” There has been no discussion on parliamentary privileges, he asserted. Fawzia Koofi, another MP, said the deputy minister should be prosecuted and dismissed for the lie.
Writer Hallema Hosainee observes: the stalemate may have been resolved, but Parliament will have to explain why it did not stand firm.