By a majority vote, the Wolesi Jirga on Wednesday approved the draft budget for the current fiscal year, beginning from Dec. 22.
The draft budget has been approved by the Meshrano Jirga or upper house, which sent it the lower house for approval with some recommendations.
According to the lower house finance and budget commission, an amount of 147 billion afghanis has been earmarked for development programmes and 280 billion afghanis for the general budget.
The assembly earlier this month rejected the accounts for what they said imbalanced allocation of funds among provinces, with most of the funds going to the security sector.
But Amir Khan Yar, the commission head, told today’s session issues raised by lawmakers in the budget draft had been addressed, keeping in view the available resources, but stopped short of going into details.
He said the government had previously set aside 128 billion afghanis for development purposes and 275 billion for the general expenses. However, he said in response to the lower house’s proposals, the government had reduced the development budget to 147 billion afs and increased the general expenses to 280 billion afs.
Yar said funds leftover from last year’s projects had been deducted from the development budget, thus decreasing the amount. He linked the surge in general budget to increase in demand for funds to precautionary codes (emergency situations) and some departments.
Officials say much of the funds have been allocated to security, education, higher education, agriculture, health, and rural development sectors.
Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal told the house 70 percent demands of the lower house had been considered in the draft budget in line with the available resources. He said lawmakers had been convinced about the remaining 30 percent proposals.
He said in the past, they would use only 20 percent of foreign assistance through the national budget against the current 45 percent, a move the minister said was key to transparency in funds utilisation.
A lawmaker from Baghlan province, Mohammad Azeem Muhsini, also deputy head of the house finance and budget commission, criticised the budget draft, saying the document had still many problems. He said a huge amount of $800 million had unnecessarily been set aside for emergency situations.
In response, Zakhilwal said Muhsini was criticising the budget because his demand to pass the second Salang highway through Andarab in Baghlan had been rejected.
Yar said the commissions concerned had debated the draft budget and they had approved it. Of 166 MPs present, 152 approved the draft budget.
Under Article 98 of the constitution, the government has to send its annual budget and development programme along with Senate’s recommendations to the lower house for endorsement. With the president’s consent, the assembly’s decision is enforced.