The parliament has rejected proposed budget for 1391 for the second time on Monday. It was first rejected on March 18 asking the Finance Ministry for some amendments. The quorum was 126 MPs, out of whom 123 voted against the proposed budget, while only 3 approved of it. MPs were mostly critical of the bailout package for Kabul Bank and uneven allocations of development funds for provinces against the constitutional term of equal and balanced development for all parts of the country.
Following are some major points of contention mentioned in the official disapproval letter of Wolesi Jirga to Finance Ministry:
- Bailout package for Kabul Bank is illegal and cannot be endorsed
- The “balanced development” principle is violated in provincial budgets distribution.
- More appropriate amount of budget should be allocated for Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher Education.
Last year when Finance Minister Zakhilwal was under fire from MPs about the $73million bailout package for Kabul Bank, he had promised to recompense the payment, but not only the government has taken no action against all those who were responsible for the corruption that led to collapse of Kabul Bank, rather the Finance Ministry has once again come up with an unbelievably ridiculous bailout package of $80million this year. No serious progress has been made in the investigation and trial of Kabul Bank shareholders. It was their irregularities and corruption that almost took the banking system down in the country. Now why should the taxpayers’ money go to recover the amount gone to luxurious villas of Dubai? The bigwigs in the Government who were shareholders of Kabul Bank have not paid their loans back. The influential ones were not even charged for an investigation and trial.
The huge amount allocated for the Supreme Court and Attorney General’s office is also criticized by MPs. Another major point of contention is the budget for Presidential Palace, particularly the allocation for security. The amount for security guards of the Palace is more than the budget for parliament! Its more than the amount of budget allocated for many ministries. The amount for budget of Presidential security and Palace administrative expenses is about $80 million, while for the entire Ministry of Commerce and Trade its $14million and Ministry of Women Affairs $4million.So more than $15million of the Palace budget is allocated for Presidential Protection Service, which alone surpasses the amount for many ministries combined.
Though the Finance Ministry after first rejection of the budget by parliament amended with addition of $2 million for the Ministry of Higher Education, $2 million for Health Ministry and $5 million for the road construction projects in Herat that MPs had asked for, but other major changes requested about the Kabul Bank bailout package and “balanced development” for provinces have been ignored.
MPs should have a special sessions on the Palace budget and discuss legislative introductions. The amount for Presidential Office constitute more than one percent of our all national budget. President Karzai is the only President in the world who has more than 100 advisors. According to an investigative report by Afghan journalist Malyar Sadiq Azad of 1TV, President Karzai has 110 advisers, most of whom rarely see him. Each of them get $5000 monthly salary with luxurious benefits. They enjoy a vehicle, two body guards, three service personnel and other benefits. Some of them have been allotted luxurious villas in Sherpur, while others have offices in Shashdarak paying 12000 USD rent monthly. More than $4million is allocated for salaries of the army of Karzai’s advisers. Only 10 of these advisors meet the President regularly and are asked for actual advice on affairs of the Government, while the remaining 100 are fill-in-the-blanks in Karzai’s patronage politics of networking to buy power brokers and regional influential figures and a waste of the national budget.
The objection on imbalanced development budget allocated for provinces is not new. For the last several years, budget gets rejected for this reason. The parliament should take a more practical step by bringing a no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Zakhilwal.
Our rulers have no regard for democratic institutions. The Presidential Palace does not give a damn about resolutions of the parliament. It again proves that the nature of centrality of power to one person in our administrative system is the root cause of an incapable government that has failed the system.
The Government is violating the Constitution by ignoring some clauses on balanced development. Some provinces have been receiving all the attention and mega-million projects in the last decade, but the poorest parts of the country have been totally ignored.
The parliament is doing what it should do. If the Government had taken the parliament serious, the budget draft proposal should not have been rejected for second time. But in a country like Afghanistan, the Government will not shut down even if the budget approval takes months as it was the case last year. The Government must respect the representatives of masses and Constitution, and not make a mockery of the system.