Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani yesterday conducted a lengthy meeting with the Kurdistan Parliament regarding natural resources policy and budgetary matters.
Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Dr. Yousif Mohammed, heads of the parliament’s political blocs, the Oil & Gas Committee, and the Legal Affairs Committee all participated in the session. The Prime Minister, Minister of Natural Resources Dr. Ashti Hawrami, and KRG Council of Ministers Legal Advisor Dr. Amanj Raheem answered questions from Members of Parliament and discussed oil export and the road forward.
An excerpt of the Prime Minister’s address is below, as well as his response to two questions from Members of Parliament.
Prime Minister’s address
“The issue of energy is highly important to us. It has no relations to party politics, nor is it a personal matter. It is related to the Kurdistan Region in general and in reality it is quite a sensitive issue and it is essential that the Parliament, in its role as the legislative institution, be fully informed on the details of this issue. Our policy has been created within the framework of the laws that have been established by the Kurdistan Parliament and hence the parliament should be privy to all the details related to this issue.
“The big question is: ‘who will control the oil’? Counterparts in Baghdad did not identify ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ KRG actions – they just wanted to control the issue completely. We do not view this issue as a path towards Kurdistan’s independence, but rather as the expression of our constitutional rights. These rights are the constitutional principles upon which we agreed when we returned to Iraq in 2003 and 2004, and they have to be implemented in Iraq.
“If Baghdad today agreed with us upon the issue of oil revenue sharing, one of Iraq’s most important laws, it would lead to the resolution of a number of obstacles related to this issue. However if I speak frankly, Iraq’s federal government increases the sovereign expenditures year after year without the Kurdistan Region’s knowledge, and this is reduced from Kurdistan’s share of the Iraqi budget.
“At a time when Baghdad regularly increases its sovereign expenditure, the burden placed upon the KRG increases and citizens’ expectations of the government, in terms of services, are considerable. This is the right of citizens, and they are fully entitled to these demands. In addition, we have a large number of civil servants on the government payroll in Kurdistan. For your information, 850 billion Iraqi dinars per month are spent on the salaries of civil servants. This is a very large figure and it needs to be addressed. It cannot continue in this way.
“In order to reach international standards…we need more than $US 31 billion to meet the demands for infrastructure in Kurdistan such as highways and roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other essential needs.
“We are determined to carry out our constitutional rights and to ensure that we receive from Baghdad the full 17% of the Kurdistan Region’s share of the budget.
“In last week’s session we provided solid clarifications. And today we have come here because without doubt esteemed Members of the Kurdistan Parliament, as members of the legislative institution in Kurdistan, have many questions that they would like to see answered. The aims of Members of Parliament are to determine whether the KRG’s oil policy will be successful or not, as well as to understand the government’s future plans. This includes the manner in which the KRG plans on spending the revenue we receive.
“We want to address these questions openly and transparently in Parliament today so that we can reach a mutual consensus regarding the energy issue in Kurdistan. And just as Speaker of Parliament Dr. Yousif explained, we want energy to be a national issue and to resolve doubts about its transparency. We are ready to answer these questions in front of the Kurdistan Parliament, as it is our legislative institution, and so we are ready to attend any time to be questioned and to be held accountable.
“We fully believe that the achievements of the KRG are in the best interest of the Kurdistan Region, and are in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution. We are confident. But the task is not easy; in fact, is it quite difficult.
“The main requirement for the success of this process is a united stance among all of Kurdistan’s political parties on this issue.”
Responses to questions from Members of Parliament
In response to questions from Members of Parliament regarding the position of the United States, Prime Minister Barzani stated that the policy of the United States is and has been to support both Baghdad and Erbil in efforts to reach an agreement, as has been reiterated by American diplomats on every occasion. The KRG wished that, when considering the oil issue, the United States had pointed to Baghdad’s unilateral and unconstitutional decision to cut the Kurdistan Region’s share of the budget. The KRG resorted to exporting oil following Baghdad’s decision to cut the budget of the Region, an act that has affected the payment of salaries of civil servants. The KRG has been forced to pursue a solution because of this action.
In response to questions regarding the agreement between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey, the Prime Minister stated, “We should not view this issue as political. We have held meetings with our Turkish counterparts over a lengthy period of time, and it culminated in a protocol for long-term cooperation on energy issues and is subject to extension. The agreement was a result of a long series of meetings. We do not consider this to be a political move to divide Iraq. That is not the case.”