The Afghan government’s cabinet is expected to decide on the third draft of the budget for the current fiscal year and send it to the parliament by Monday, MPs said on Sunday.
The Afghan parliament has rejected the first two drafts of the budget plan in less than one month, citing a questionable proposed increase in the budget accompanying job cuts and a reduction in the number of development projects.
Lawmakers last week said that the rejection of the budget plan for the second time occurred for many reasons, namely the ambiguity around an Afs15 billion ($ 193.8 million) increase in the ordinary budget for the current fiscal year that started on December 21.
The financial and budget committee of the parliament said that based on the budget plan, the government is removing 13,000 public servants, but it has increased the ordinary budget from which the salaries of government employees are paid.
The exclusion of 1,131 provincial projects, the allocation of Afs13 billion ($166 million) for the emergency code (an emergency budgetary unit) and the allocation of Afs2 billion ($25.5 million) to the government's Code 91 and 92--also emergency funds--were reasons for concern raised by lawmakers.
The budget for the fiscal year 1400 (2021), which was submitted to the parliament by the government, estimated a total of Afs452 billion ($5.8 billion) for this fiscal year.
The finance and budget committee of the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, said the government has sent a "finalized" version and that there has been no discussion between lawmakers and the Finance Ministry after the second time the budget plan was rejected.
Some lawmakers said that they have suggested reforms for 19 points in the budget draft and they will reject it for the third time if their recommendations are not considered.
“The parliament is trying to have a people-oriented budget plan in which balance is considered,” said Gul Ahmad Kamin, an MP from Kandahar.
The lawmakers said they have not been consulted on the draft budget this time, calling it unusual compared to the previous year.
“A 'finalized' budget is passed by the cabinet and is sent to the parliament. The budget plan will be rejected once again if the 18 or 19 points that have been mentioned as reasons to reject the budget plan are not considered,” said Zalmay Noori, an MP and member of the finance and budget committee of the parliament.
The head of the legislative committee of the house, Nazir Ahmad Hanafi, said they will amend the draft budget and will send it to the president for approval if the government does not apply their recommendations to it.
“We will approve the budget by two-thirds whether the president approves it or not. This is our authority,” Hanafi said.
Lawmakers said that the government is trying to withhold December's salary from thousands of government employees and remove MPs’ relatives from their posts in some government institutions to put pressure on the parliament to approve the budget. The lawmakers said this is unacceptable and is in contravention of the country’s laws.
“Government employees’ salary payments can never be stopped by the government due to a delay in the approval of the budget by the parliament,” legal expert Waheed Frazaee said.
“The complications are not aimed at solving people’s problems; they are for personal interests,” said Ahmad Najim, a Kabul resident.
The government has not commented on the lawmakers’ remarks, but presidential adviser Waheed Omer last week said the reasons given by the parliament for rejecting the draft budget plan are not legitimate.
The Finance Ministry on Saturday said that the December salary, for which documents were sent to the ministry, has been paid.