Basra threatens to take over Iraq's South Oil Co.

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The Basra Provincial Council threatened to take over the South Oil Co. which operates in Basra, if the Iraqi central government fails to approve the general budget it has been calling for.

The local government in Basra demanded the central Iraqi government to approve the country’s general budget soon. It threatened to take special measures, including handling the management of the affairs of the South Oil Co., located in Basra, and its funds, in case the budget decision was delayed.

The Basra Provincial Council held a special session at the company’s headquarters to send a message to the central government. The head of the council, Khalaf Abdul Samad, in a statement to Al-Hayat said, “The session was like a pressure card against the central government to urge it not to delay the approval of the budget until the next parliamentary session. The council will also submit an official statement to the parliament detailing what was decided during the session.”

Samad said, “The importance of holding the session, broadcasting it on TV and knowing who impeded it, whether it was the MPs with their absence, which led to not achieving a quorum, or the chair of the session by not including the plan on the agenda.”

“The government should not allow the Iraqi Kurdistan Region to export its oil without its approval, and a share of Iraq’s general budget, which relies greatly on the yields of Basra oil, should be allocated to the region. The delay in setting the budget has caused big problems for the governmental departments and institutions in Basra, as some public hospitals ran out of certain medicines. The Health Department cannot provide these medicines before the budget is passed. Moreover, the projects that are underway in the province cannot be completed if the contractors have not yet received their dues,” he noted.

“In its previous session, the provincial council decided to hold a one-hour strike every Wednesday in all governmental departments in Basra to protest against the parliament’s delay in approving the budget,” he added.

The Iraqi parliament is still lost in a turmoil of political disputes that are obstructing the approval of the budget, despite that four months have already passed since the start of the fiscal year. This is because each parliamentary party is clinging to its own amendments to the budget law.

The head of the State of Law Coalition in the Basra Provincial Council, Sabah al-Bazoni, said, “The South Oil Co. should be isolated and called the Basra Oil Co., and the local government in the province should handle all the company’s administrative and financial matters.”

“The province is seeking to take such decisions because the budget has not been approved yet and it is unlikely that it will be approved in the near future. Moreover, the parliamentary elections will be held end of April, which means that the country will enter a financial vacuum with repercussions that will last for months,” he said.

In a statement issued last week, the Basra Provincial Council stated, “The province cannot settle its debts to the construction companies operating in Basra because the contractors have suspended many projects that require spending of financial advances, which in turn require the approval of the general budget.”

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Found in: oil revenue, oil, iraqi central government, iraq, budget, basra provincial council
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