Iraqi parliament passes food security bill, while Sadr warns of corruption 

Iraqi parliament passes food security bill, while Sadr warns of corruption 
4 min read
09 June, 2022
The Iraqi parliament on Wednesday passed the controversial food security bill into law, enabling the government to meet the urgent needs of the Iraqi public amid a global hike in food prices. 
The Iraqi parliament. [Getty]

The Iraqi parliament on Wednesday unanimously passed the food security bill in order to enable Mustafa al-Kadhimi's caretaker government to use the surplus from selling oil for the urgent and daily needs of the Iraqi people, as well as exporting gas from Iran to generate electricity.  

According to a statement by the parliament, 273 lawmakers attended the vote in session and it was passed with the majority vote of the Iraqi MPs.

"The law aims at fulfilling food security, minimising poverty rates, establishing financial stability as per the urgent global developments, the continuation of offering services to the citizens, raising living standards for people, providing work opportunities, resuming stalled projects because of the lack of liquidity,  and enabling the Iraqis to utilize the country's revenues," part of the statement said.

"This law has special importance for Iraq since Iraq lacks a federal budget law and the Iraqi law allows the government to spend one-twelfth of the previous year's actual spending each month. That spending is not sufficient for all the needs; thus, this law enables the Iraqis to acquire food necessities as per the food coupon ratio," Rebwar Awrahman, Kurdish lawmaker from the New Generation bloc and member of the Iraqi parliament's finance committee said to The New Arab via WhatsApp messaging. 

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"The law also provides the ability to buy gas from Iran for generating electricity. According to the law, nearly 15,000 youths, who have been working as temporary employees, would become permanent employees on the Iraqi government's payroll. It also provides money for Kurdish farmers who have submitted grain to the Iraqi government and have been waiting for their paychecks since 2014," Awrahman noted. 

He clarified that every Iraqi province, except for the four northern provinces in the Kurdistan region, has the right to employ nearly one thousand young employees.

"This is very crucial for the Kurdish citizens in disputed provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala and Nineveh," he added.      

On 17 May, Iraq's Federal Supreme Court, the country's supreme judicial authority, ruled against the bill proposed by Mustafa al-Kadhimi, prime minister of the Iraqi caretaker government, saying that according to the country's constitution caretaker governments cannot propose draft laws.

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Later on, a number of MPs from al-Sadr's bloc proposed the same bill in an attempt to empower the Iraqi government to spend money and tackle rising food prices as the country struggles to pass a budget law due to the political deadlocks.

Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in a statement applauded the Iraqi lawmakers for passing the bill, but cautioned that in implementing the law "corrupt persons might exploit the law."

He proposed forming a legislative special committee to oversee how the law is carried out and prevent the corrupt from "stealing the people's food." 

The Coordination Framework, a parliamentary faction consisting of pro-Iran Shia parties that previously opposed passing the bill fiercely, but yesterday in a surprise move voted in favour of the bill.

Several Iraqi Twitter users applauded the law's passing, while others have described it as "the law for stealing food" and harshly rebuked the Coordination Framework, as well as the independent lawmakers for voting in favour of the law.

Other Iraqis argued the vote might be in return for future agreements in forming the new Iraqi government, while a few commentators claimed that some MPs from the Coordination Framework have been bribed for lofty contracts in carrying out the law.

"[Yesterday]'s vote on the law for stealing confirmed that the Coordination Framework is not stable and rushes for temporary achievements," Erfan al-Musawi wrote on Twitter. 

Jamal Kocher, an Iraqi lawmaker from the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and member of the parliament's finance committee, last month told The New Arab that the amount of money proposed in the bill "is too much, about 25 trillion Iraqi dinars (17 to 19 million dollars). Food security might just need five trillion dinars. Thirdly, the parliament cannot question caretaker governments, thus there are suspicions that in implementation it would lead to rampant corruption."