The government sent an amended draft of the current fiscal year’s budget to the parliament for the third time on Thursday after it was rejected twice by lawmakers over various reasons, including “inequality” in public employees’ salaries.
The Presidential Palace said the cabinet approved the amended draft on Wednesday. Officials said some demands of lawmakers have been included in the amended draft.
As part of the new amendments, the government has dropped the multimillion new COVID-19 relief package, the national dinner table program, and has brought some changes in the salary scales for public employees.
The government has said that in the new amendment, salaries of teachers have also been increased.
“Not only the teachers--we want that the salaries of all government servants be increased,” said Sayed Naseer Ahmad, head of the budget department of the Ministry of Finance. “We are going to the parliament again (later) with the necessary explanations so that we can approve the National Dinner Table.”
The $244 million National Dinner Table program was announced by President Ashraf Ghani last year in July but was soon rejected by the parliament. The program, according to officials, was expected to be implemented in two phases and to reach 90 percent of the country's population.
The head of the budget department of the finance ministry said that the budget plan for the second phase of the national dinner table program, which has been estimated at $130 million will be sent for the parliament for approval at a later time.
One amendment includes the transfer of nearly Afs 1.5 billion from Code 22, which is for government office expenses, and nearly Afs 1 billion from discretionary budgetary codes, in order to equalize the salaries of the government employees, said Naseer Ahmad this week.
Adjusting the salaries of government employees was one of the 19 requests for amendments in the budget plan by lawmakers.
The budget plan for the current fiscal year that started on Dec. 21, 2020, was rejected twice by the parliament, which cited 19 reasons for doing so.
Some MPs said the third draft will also be rejected if it does not address the issues that the parliament considered.
“Meetings of legislators with government officials do not affect the rejection or approval of the budget because it is a matter of the rights of the people,” said Karim Atal, an MP.
“The legal status of the Wolesi Jirga was accepted by the government. I want to thank my colleagues who demonstrated patience,” said Sayed Azim Keberzani, an MP from Herat.
The lawmakers are expected to review the draft budget on Saturday and then decide whether to approve or reject it.
The Afghan parliament has rejected the first two drafts, citing major shortcomings in the document.
The Presidential Palace has requested that the parliament approves this budget draft, and in a timely manner.
“The president has directed the Ministry of Finance to send the budget draft to the National Assembly. We call on the National Assembly to approve the draft as soon as possible,” said Dawa Khan Menapal, a presidential spokesman.
The government has an estimated Afs 473 billion ($6 billion) for the current year’s budget, including Afs 162 billion ($2 billion) for the development budget and Afs 311 billion ($4 billion) for the ordinary budget.