By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – Afghanistan’s parliament on Saturday rejected a second draft of a proposed annual budget of around $6 billion.
In a growing rift between parliament and the executive branch, lawmakers are pushing the government to streamline salaries of public servants and incorporate their demands in the 2021 budget.
During Saturday’s debate, Mir Rahman Rahmani, speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, or House of the People, the lower chamber of Afghanistan’s National Assembly, said the government failed to correct 17 violations identified in the first draft.
He said there were two new objectionable points in the second budget draft, which was eventually turned down with 120 votes against it and just 15 in favor.
Lawmakers are particularly aggrieved over the exclusion of more than 1,000 development projects in various provinces and the allocation of nearly $200 million for multiple emergency codes in the total budget of some $5.8 billion.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Abdul Habib, Afghanistan’s deputy finance minister, stressed that parliamentarians need to fulfill their constitutional responsibility.
“The law clearly defines that the parliament can only approve or reject the budget, not dictate its contents,” he said.
The Afghan parliament’s winter holidays have been delayed due to the budget impasse, which has also led to delays in payment of salaries and execution of projects.
Afghanistan received financial pledges worth an estimated $12 billion for the next four years at the 2020 Afghanistan Conference in Geneva last November.
The promises of support, however, came with many strings attached, particularly related to anti-corruption and inclusivity measures.