Cabinet approves draft annual budget
KABUL (Pajhwok): The Cabinet has approved the draft annual budget for the Afghan calendar fiscal year 1394, which begins on March 22, with a total outlay of 422 billion afghanis -- showing a 10.4 billion afs deficit.
Chaired by President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the Council of Ministers met on late on Friday and discussed reductions in government expenses. The meeting also conferred on ways of addressing the budget deficit.
The participants stressed reforms in government entities and upheld the Cabinet’s decision on stripping the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and the High Office of Oversight and Anti-corruption of their authority to investigate state organs.
In a statement, the Administrative Affairs Office said the Cabinet endorsed the draft budget for the next fiscal after it was presented by the acting finance minister.
It said 282 billion afghanis had been set aside for non-development and 140 billion afs for development purposes, putting the deficit at 10.4 billion afs. The budget for the ongoing year was 428.4 billion afs.
Acting finance minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal said 133.8 billion afs income had been projected for the current year, but security challenges, the electoral deadlock, economic slowdown and the delay in signing the security deal with the US resulted in a 26 percent decrease.
In order to avoid further deficit, the Finance Ministry has introduced reforms to improve the income structure and speed up tax collections. “There are sufficient sources to pay government employees’ salaries during the current fiscal year,” he added.
The Cabinet also discussed how to cut public spending, with Zakhilwal suggesting reductions in non-development expenses by the ministries of defence, interior, education, higher education, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the national assembly.
The meeting tasked the Ministry of Finance with drafting budgets for the next three years (1394-1396) in light of commitments from donor countries and with focus on infrastructural projects.
The ministry was also tasked with presenting next years’ budgets of the defence and interior ministries as well as the spy service for further discussions at the National Security Council (NSC) besides providing a list of big taxpayers to the Presidential Palace.
The Cabinet directed the Finance Ministry to prioritise government’s liabilities from salaries to arrears payable to contractors. Finance and interior ministries and the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) were asked to bring about reforms to customs offices and prevent illegal taxes on highways.
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