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Iraqi MPs pass $82-billion 2011 spending programme

8 wounded in Iraqi Kurd demo
Sulaimaniyah, Iraq (AFP) Feb 20, 2011 - At least eight people, four police and four civilians, were wounded on Sunday when clashes erupted during a rally in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, a medical official said. Around 1,500 protesters had tried to march to Salem street, the site of violent demonstrations that left two young men killed and 54 wounded on Thursday, but security forces blocked their progress, sparking the clashes. "We are treating eight people who were wounded," said an official at Sulaimaniyah hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said two civilians were wounded by bullets when Kurdish security forces fired their weapons into the air, while the rest had suffered injuries as a result of clashes. The demonstrators on Thursday had also attempted to move toward the Salem street headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Sulaimaniyah. Immediately after those protests, looters targeted seven offices of the Kurdish opposition Goran party, despite the bloc's denials it was involved in protests at the KDP offices. The KDP, led by regional president Massud Barzani, and the PUK, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, have for decades lorded over the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Feb 20, 2011
Iraqi lawmakers approved an $82-billion spending programme for 2011 by voting for a national budget in parliament on Sunday.

Overall expenditure will be $81.86 billion, or 96.6 trillion Iraqi dinars, while income is projected at $68.56 billion, leaving a shortfall of $13.3 billion -- a budget deficit of around 16 percent.

The budget is based on average oil prices of $76.5 per barrel and projected exports of 2.2 million barrels of oil per day (bpd), a figure which includes 100,000 bpd of exports from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

A previous draft budget sent to parliament by the cabinet on December 1 estimated spending of $78.8 billion based on oil prices of $73 per barrel.

Energy sales are expected to account for 90 percent of revenues.

While Iraq's projected oil price currently looks to be a conservative estimate -- prices currently stand at around $86 in New York -- its projected exports are more ambitious.

Iraq has not exported 2.2 million barrels per day since the 2003 US-led invasion ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

The country currently produces around 2.5 million bpd, with exports averaging around two million bpd, though the former figure is expected to rise to three million bpd by the end of the year, according to the oil ministry.

earlier related report
Iraq MPs pull back from drastic pay cuts
Baghdad (AFP) Feb 20, 2011 - Iraqi MPs decided against slashing their salaries and those of ministers on Sunday, opting instead for smaller cuts in a vote in parliament despite government calls for dramatic decreases.

Sunday's pay cuts will result in annual savings of at least $4.9 million (3.58 million euros), compared to $19 million in yearly savings that would have resulted had a proposal submitted by the cabinet been approved.

Salaries of ministers and lawmakers, currently set at $11,000 (8,000 euros) per month, will decline by 10 percent as part of cost-cutting measures that also include the cancellation of expense accounts for Iraq's president and parliament speaker and their deputies, each of which was greater than $1 million a year.

"They are selfish -- the government submitted its proposal for bigger cuts, but MPs refused," said a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Cabinet secretary general Ali al-Alaak told AFP on Wednesday that the government wanted to slash pay for ministers and MPs by nearly 40 percent.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani have both said previously that they wished to halve their salaries. The government official said Maliki intended to stick to his pledge, but it was unclear if Talabani would do so as well.

The vote comes amid nationwide protests against widespread corruption, poor basic services and high levels of unemployment, and after a popular MP in Maliki's bloc resigned after describing parliament as an institution "hamstrung by quotas and cronyism."

earlier related report
Popular MP in Iraq PM's bloc resigns
Baghdad (AFP) Feb 18, 2011 - A popular member of Nuri al-Maliki's political party has stepped down as an MP, apparently over his unhappiness with a key supreme court ruling last month, an official said on Friday.

Jaafar al-Sadr, the son of the founder of Prime Minister Maliki's Dawa party, submitted his resignation on Thursday after having been elected to parliament in the general election last March.

"Jaafar al-Sadr resigned Thursday morning without giving a reason, but his resignation still has to be accepted by the speakership of parliament for it to become official," a source in the parliamentary speaker's office told AFP.

The 40-year-old is the only son of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Sadr, who founded the Islamic Dawa Party in 1957 and who was killed by now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein in 1980.

According to a source close to the ex-MP, "his decision was motivated by differences he had with the official line of his parliamentary bloc," led by Maliki.

"Unlike Maliki, Jaafar al-Sadr strongly supports the independence of young institutions of the Iraqi state, like the Independent High Electoral Commission and the Commission on Integrity (the anti-corruption agency)," the source said.

He was referring to a January 18 supreme court decision to link several independent bodies, including the election commission, the central bank and the anti-corruption watchdog, to Maliki's cabinet.

Critics and the bodies themselves have opposed the ruling, which they say compromises their non-partisan reputation, but Maliki has defended it, saying that it was necessary that they be linked to the cabinet because their work was executive in nature.

Jaafar al-Sadr, a cousin and brother-in-law of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, won the second highest number of votes within Maliki's State of Law coalition in Baghdad province in the elections, after only the premier himself.

He undertook religious study in Baghdad, the holy Shiite city of Najaf and the Iranian city of Qom before earning a degree in sociology and anthropology in Lebanon.

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Popular MP in Iraq PM's bloc resigns
Baghdad (AFP) Feb 18, 2011
A popular member of Nuri al-Maliki's political party has stepped down as an MP, apparently over his unhappiness with a key supreme court ruling last month, an official said on Friday. Jaafar al-Sadr, the son of the founder of Prime Minister Maliki's Dawa party, submitted his resignation on Thursday after having been elected to parliament in the general election last March. "Jaafar al-Sad ... read more

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