Iraqi cabinet proposes $82.6bn budget for 2011

Iraq's cabinet proposed a 96.6 trillion dinar ($82.6 billion) budget for 2011 on Sunday, its latest revision of its spending plans after haggling with lawmakers amid rising oil prices.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the bulk of the budget, 66.6 trillion dinars, had been allocated to operational expenses, while 30 trillion would go to investment.

The deficit was expected to be 15.7 trillion dinars.

The new draft budget was based on an average oil price of $76.50 per barrel and 2.2 million barrels per day in crude exports, including 100,000 bpd from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north which this month resumed exports.

"The cabinet approved the federal budget in a special meeting held today," Dabbagh said in a statement.

The previous version of the budget foresaw spending of $80 billion and was also based on average oil prices of $76.50 a barrel. It had forecast crude exports, however, of 2.25 million bpd, Deputy Finance Minister Fadhil Nabi said last month.

The budget must now return to parliament to be approved and remains subject to negotiations.

Budget shortfalls challenge Iraq's ability to rebuild after years of conflict following the US-led invasion in 2003. Violence has subsided in the last three years and the government has announced major projects to refurbish oilfields and infrastructure and to construct housing.

The OPEC producer has signed deals with global oil firms that could boost its output capacity to 12 million bpd from the current 2.5 million, rivalling top producer Saudi Arabia, in six to seven years time.

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