By ABDUL WAHEED WAFA, NY Times
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's Parliament overwhelmingly rejected the government's budget on Sunday after Finance Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi told legislators that international donors would not agree to raise the salaries of teachers and other government workers.
The budget will be returned for revisions, legislators said.
The vote, which could delay financing some programs, was a blow to President Hamid Karzai and his government. With the new Parliament in office since December, this is the first year that the government has had to seek the elected legislators' approval for the annual budget, and the process is already behind schedule. The budget year begins with the Afghan calendar year on March 21.
"Afghan people are expecting their representatives to do something for them but the government did not accept our legitimate proposals and that is why we rejected the budget today," said Mir Ahmad Joyenda, a legislator from Kabul Province.
Afghanistan depends largely on foreign aid. Its development budget, which is entirely financed by foreign donors, amounts to $1.2 billion this year and is not directly affected by the vote on Sunday. The budget presented to the lawmakers calls for $836 million for operating expenses, of which Afghanistan intends to raise $500 million through domestic revenues and the rest from donors.
But lawmakers raised objections to each budget, complaining that spending under the development budget was not evenly distributed around the country and that the ordinary budget was not fair to civil servants, who earn $40 a month. The finance minister returned to Parliament on Sunday to defend his budget a second time, and tried to warn legislators of the consequences of their demands. He said international donors had already reduced their commitment for the operating budget because of the pressure to raise the salaries of government workers. "They are not happy to raise salaries without administrative reform," he told the Parliament.
In continuing violence on Sunday, a suicide bomber in a taxi blew himself up, killing two civilians and wounding another in Kabul, the capital, the police said.
One of the dead was a truck driver who had been driving past and one was a local resident who had been walking home, said Abdul Khaaleq, the district police chief. The bomber just missed a foreign military convoy that passed him minutes before the attack on the main Jalalabad road, where most of the international peacekeepers maintain bases. The bomber could not be identified because his body was badly damaged, said Gen. Jamil Kohistani, chief of the criminal section of the Kabul police.
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