MPs approve national budget, people protest in Ghor calling it unbalanced

In a general assembly held Wednesday, January 22, the Afghan parliament approved a national budget of 428.4 billion afghanis for the next fiscal year (1399) after nearly a month-long assessment. 289 billion afghanis is allocated to operating budget and another 139 billion afghanis to development budget.

According to the Ministry of Finance, 48 percent of the national budget will be covered through domestic income.

Meanwhile, the Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) has said in a new study launched Tuesday, January 21, that the 1399 budget plan has been poorly developed in areas of addressing needs of Afghanistan IDPs and repatriated refugees, health and education sectors.

“Although the health and education sectors have plagued in a calamitous situation, the required maintenance appropriations have not been made for the sectors,” Mohammad Naser Timory, a member of IWA, said during the launch report.

The report has found that the government has not fulfilled 87 percent of its promises made for building and reconstructing school buildings in the country. In a public address, in March 2018, President Ghani pledged to build 6,000 new schools within two years (2018 and 2019). Of those 6,000 schools, 200 schools were built until January of 2019 and construction of other 600 schools was supposed to be completed by March of 2020.

According to the IWA, the Ministry of Borders and Tribal Affairs have received budget for constructing 2,647 schools in the country.

Why did the 1399 national budget provoke public criticism?

Approval of the budget plan, however, was followed by huge public criticisms. Some MPs say the 1399 national budget is not balanced.

Gul Zaman Nayeb, a member of the parliament, told Kabul Now that most of MPs were critical because they see the budget plan as unbalanced for provinces. “Secretary of the meeting did not listen to the objections [raised against the budget],” he claimed. He says the underdeveloped Ghor province has not been taken into account of the national budget.

The Parliament’s committee on financial and budget affairs did not respond to repeated calls by Kabul Now.

MP Habibul Rahman Pedram, who represents the western Herat province, has described the 1399 national budget as ‘discriminatory’. “For instance, 1.5 billion afghanis is allocated to a province while the total amount of budget allocated to another province is equal to budget of a district,” the MP said.

Many Afghan social media users also criticize the government and the parliament, calling the national budget unbalanced.  

Just two construction projects in Badakhshan taken into account to be funded by the 1399 national budget, Ainuddin Bahodury, a social media user, wrote on his Facebook account.   

Alidost Shahab, a university lecturer, expressing concerns, says Administrative Office of the President controls everything in respect to budget in the finance ministry. He says, under president Ghani’s reform plan, authority of spending budget has been taken from the line ministries, and instead, it has been given to the AOP.   

Zakia Sangeen, a member of the parliament’s budget committee, told Kabul Now last week that the MPs refused to approve the budget, which was proposed to establish new units or offices within the government.

IWA urges the government to develop national budget in line with the need and requirement of people.

Shamrooz Khan Masjidi, the MoF spokesperson, told Kabul Now that the Afghan government is not able to include and implement all proposed projects by the people in the budget plan as it lacks financial resources.

He says the Afghan government is dependent on international aid and cannot make decision singlehandedly.  

Protest in Ghor

On the other hand, hundreds of protesters closed government offices in the central Ghor province, accusing the government neglecting the province.

The protesters have set up sit-in tent in front of governor office, calling on government authorities to fund infrastructure projects—construction of highway.  

Abdul Hamid Nateqi, a member of Ghor Provincial Council, who was among the protesters, warned that they will not stop their protests until the government takes account of Ghor-Kabul highway in the national budget plan.

The protesters have given a seven-day deadline to the government to address their demands, saying they will expel government employees from the province if the central government refuses to take construction of Ghor-Kabul highway into account of the 1399 national budget.