Majlis Rejects Use of NDFI for Developing Joint Fields

Majlis Rejects Use of NDFI  for Developing Joint FieldsMajlis Rejects Use of NDFI  for Developing Joint Fields

For a second time, an important clause, concerning investment in joint oil and gas fields, included under the Article 2 of the budget bill for next year has been sent to the Majlis Integration Committee for further examination, ISNA reported Monday.

Clause 2 of Article 2 calls for allocation of $4.8 billion in loans, using resources of the National Development Fund of Iran, for development of oil and gas fields Iran shares with several Arab states of the Persian Gulf region. The amended note needed two thirds of votes from the parliament to be approved; however, it failed to pass as only 79 voted in favor and 58 against, while 10 abstained.

The parliament's presiding committee then put the exclusion of the clause to vote, which was approved with 83 votes in favor. Shortly afterwards, chairman of the parliament's integration committee, Gholamreza Tajgardoon, took the podium and suggested that the contentious part be revised in a way that the amount can be allotted to private contractors "so that the clause would not contradict  the budget law."

But this proposal also failed to garner support of parliament's majority, and the amendment was sent once again to the integration committee, which is in charge of studying the details of the budget bill.

"Withdrawing such a large amount from the NDFI violates Article 110 and Article 44 of the constitution," MP Elias Naderan, who is a member of budget and planning committee, said while explaining his opposition to the inclusion of Clause 2 under the budget bill's Article 2. "Our concern is that NDFI could suffer the same fate as its antecedent Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund," he warned.

"The parliamentarians will try their best to prepare the ground for proper financing of oil ministry's development projects, especially those of joint oil and gas fields," lawmakers agreed at the end of Monday's debate. They asserted that NDFI resources can be allocated to state-owned companies for development projects only through a certain group of agent banks, and that, according to the Budget Law, the funds may not be directly channeled into those companies.

Last month, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh announced that the government has set a top priority the development of oil and gas fields shared with the neighboring countries. However, he complained last week to the parliament that his ministry was facing problems in providing enough funds to pay the salaries of its staff let alone investing in joint oil and gas fields.