Andreas von Brandt, Ambassador of the European Union in Afghanistan, said that the Parliament has the legal authority to criticize the budget, adding that it is the responsibility of the government to come up with a constructive approach and seek support from the majority of the lawmakers in the approval process of the budget.
A month has passed since the government and Parliament have clashed over the approval of the budget plan.
MPs rejected the budget two times, citing its "lack of balance."
“I think it is the duty of Parliament to criticize the government, and it is also the duty of the government to find a majority to get ahead with its proposals; however, this has to be in a professional and forward-looking and in a constructive way,” said EU envoy Andreas von Brandt.
He said Afghanistan today needs unity more than anything else.
“At this moment, the country needs unity--that does not mean you have to agree on everything, but it has to be an approach that is not stalling, not blocking progress,” added the EU envoy.
“The government is not paying the salaries of the employees to put pressure on the Parliament—the government should send the new draft budget as soon as possible,” said Iqbal Safi, MP.
“Yesterday no discussion was held on the budget at the cabinet meeting, the government is reluctant the budget to be approved by the parliament, said MP Baktash Eshchi.
“Almost 75 percent of the Afghans live below the poverty line, but the Presidential Palace orders 18 types of meat-- it is a move to oppress the people who live in this country,” said MP Khan Agha Rezayee.
Meanwhile, amid tensions between the Afghan government and the parliament, a member of the Afghan parliament disclosed a contract which shows that the Administrative Office of the President (AOP) had requested 18 types of meat for the palace.
The Administrative Office of the President has so far not commented on the matter.
Why has Parliament rejected the budget?
The Afghan parliament has rejected two drafts of the budget for the current fiscal year that started on December 21, 2020, and the situation is becoming a serious face-off between the two branches of the state.
This is the first time that a draft for the budget has been rejected two times by the Parliament. The Parliament this time has set some “red lines” for its stance on the budget. One of those redlines is equalizing the salaries of government employees, as MPs think the current wage scale of public servants is unjust.
The MPs have listed 19 issues in the draft budget to be fixed. They are as follows:
1. It allocates more funds to an already-criticized discretionary fund that is solely at the president’s disposal.
2. Many proposed amendments by MPs were not even considered.
According to MPs, Afs 21.6bn ($280m) was allocated for the budget, which makes up 4.8% of the entire government budget.
3. The wage gap (advisers are paid thousands of dollars a month while a teacher is paid around 100 dollars).
4. President Ashraf Ghani has included a food distribution program of $280m despite Parliament’s rejection of the scheme and a previous COVID-response food program that was accused of widespread corruption.
5. Afs 4.3bn ($55m) was allocated to a huge construction unit formed under the Office of the President, which has been criticized for signal-sourcing big contracts.
6. Provincial projects were removed from the budget, including ongoing projects.
7. MPs proposed to suspend budgetary funding to institutions run by voted-out caretakers, but the proposed budget does not reflect that.
8. MPs demand guidelines to streamline benefit packages of government officials, including house rents and salaries, which is a common practice in the government.
9. No clarification on internal financial resources.
10. More money allocated to non-development budget than development budgets.
11. The creation of new government institutions without Parliament’s consent.
12. Plans were included to cut 13,000 jobs in government despite an increase in the non-development budget.
13. It showed a lack of proper guidelines for the payment of salaries, expense accounts and house rent for government employees.
14. There was a lack of attention to MPs’ proposed amendments in the use of internal financial resources.
15. No clarification on internal financial resources.
16. Am imbalance in national and development budgets and the addition of Afs15B ($194M) to the non-development budget.
17. Addition of new institutions to the budget plan without Parliament’s consent.
18. Problems in the proposed budget for municipalities.
19. The inclusion of the government’s capacity-building program, which MPs oppose.
The second draft has an estimated Afs 470 billion (nearly $6 billion) from which Afs 311 billion is for a regular budget and Afs 161 billion is for the development budget.