ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC) on Tuesday passed the province’s budget bill for 2019 amid controversies surrounding the distribution of funds in Kirkuk.
The bill was approved by 21 members of the KPC, out of total 41.
The oil-rich province over the past few years has been suffering from poor public services and a lack of investments due to budget delays.
The bill was ultimately passed in a KPC session, but disagreements over the uneven distribution of projects in different parts of the province led some to walk out during the session, while others boycotted it from the beginning.
“There should be a fair distribution of projects and services,” Najat Ali, a Turkmen member of the KPC, told reporters following the session.
“There should be justice, equality, not for projects to be distributed based on parties or interest groups… In some areas, about 15 projects have been dedicated; others one or two,” Ali argues. “The costs of the projects also significantly vary from one area to another.”
The security and stability of Kirkuk has considerably deteriorated, notably after the attack and military takeover by Iraqi forces and Shia militias on Oct. 16, 2017, which drove the Kurdish Peshmerga and security forces out of the province.
Kurds in Kirkuk have long formed a majority bloc within the KPC called the Brotherhood, which has 26 members, all of different ethnic and religious grops. The Oct. 16 attack ushered about disunity and division within the group, which saw eight of the 26 members vote in favor of the bill.
Since 2017, the KPC has failed to convene due to lack of quorum, which had further implications on the situation in the province.
“There are two options for the situation in Kirkuk. First one, the Iraqi Council of Ministers gives ultimate authority in Kirkuk to the acting Governor, Rakan Saeed al-Jabouri, which we don’t accept,” Kaka-Rash Sidiq, a member of the KPC from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) faction, told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday.
“The second option is to let Iraqi ministries directly supervise projects and services in Kirkuk, which we consider to be a massive failure for Kirkuk and the KPC,” he continued.
The budget is over IQD 430 billion (US $361 million). According to the bill, it will be spent on rebuilding the electricity sector, completing water projects, creating two silos in Hawija and Dubiz (Dibis), building and renovating schools, and repairing roads.
The bill also indicates that 60 percent of the budget would go to projects in the southern part of the province, while 40 percent would be dedicated to the central and northern part of Kirkuk.
Kirkuk is an ethnically diverse province, home to Turkmens, Arabs, Christians, and a Kurdish majority.
The province is also one of the disputed territories claimed by both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government of Iraq.
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Additional reporting by Soran Kamaran)