Discussions and debates in Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga—the lower house of parliament--were heated on Wednesday as tensions between the nation’s legislative body and the government continue over the fiscal budget.
It is not clear when the Afghan parliament will approve the document.
Some members said that while people sell their own organs due to poverty, tens of billions of Afs have been allocated in the budget to buy fashion items.
Five days have passed since the parliament’s budget and finance commission started analyzing the amendments in the third draft of the budget.
“It's now 20 days that we are working on it,” said MP Gul Rahman Hamdard.
“This is the first time in the history of Parliament that the budget and finance commission is dealing with the budget professionally and with responsibility to address the needs of the Afghan people,” said MP Neelofar Ibrahimi.
“We do not have any problem with the budget, our problem is that the authorities of the Wolesi Jirga have been grabbed by the government,” said Mir Rahman Rahmani, the speaker of the parliament.
“The acting minister of finance or his deputy should appear here and explain the authorities of the Wolesi Jirga—we will never give our authorities to anyone, we represent the people,” said MP Sadiq Qaderi.
The tension over the budget has also delayed the salaries of government workers.
“I swear someone called me from Khair Khana and said that I don’t want increase in salary, just pay the salary to save my children,” said MP Nematullah Karyab.
“People call us and ask us to approve the budget,” said MP Farida Nekzad.
“The people sell their organs because of poverty,” said MP Hamidullah Hanif.
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Finance said amendments had been applied to a third draft for the current fiscal year’s budget plan, which made an effort to equalize public servants’ salaries.
One part of this amendment includes the transfer of nearly 1.5 billion Afs from Code 22, which is for government offices expenses, and nearly 1 billion Afs from discretionary budgetary codes to equalize the salaries of the government employees, said Sayed Naseer Ahmad, the head of the national budget department of the ministry.
Adjusting the salaries of government employees was one of the 19 requests for amendments in the budget plan by lawmakers.
Officials in the ministry said the new draft will be sent to the parliament on Wednesday.
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.
The government has an estimated 473 billion Afs ($6 billion) for the current year’s budget, including 162 billion Afs ($2 billion) for the development budget and 311 billion Afs ($4 billion) for the ordinary budget.
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, 21.6bn Afs ($280m) were 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. 4.3bn Afs ($55m) was allocated to a huge construction unit formed under the Office of the President, which has been criticized for single-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 15bn Afs ($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.