Baghdad - The Iraqi parliament Thursday Thursday passed a 2009 budget of 58.6 billion dollars, after slashing around four billion dollars off government spending plans.
As global oil prices fell from 150 dollars per barrel in July to little more than 43 dollars on Wednesday, there were increasing concerns that huge cuts might be needed.
Oil exports account for almost 95 per cent of Iraq's revenue. This month's exports of crude oil reached an average of one million and 804 barrels per day.
There have been wide calls for diversifying the economy by expanding other fields and attracting more investment in agriculture and other trade.
"We need a wider economic vision because the unilateral source of Iraqi wealth is something we have to think about a lot," said Nour Eddin al-Heyali, a member of the parliamentary oil and gas committee.
The budget for fiscal 2009, which started in January, had been proposed to parliament by the government late last year - but passing it was postponed until problems within parliament were resolved.
But these remained unresolved after former parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani resigned on December 24 after a dispute over whether Iraqi journalist Montadher al-Zaidi should be tried for throwing his shoes at former US President George W Bush.
A new speaker has yet to be chosen. Yet despite it being illegal to pass the state budget with no speaker in parliament, lawmakers eventually obtained a court order allowing it to be passed, although two months late.
A majority of 165 lawmakers present in parliament voted to cut more than seven per cent of the originally proposed spending.
The government has twice slashed projected 2009 spending because of tumbling oil prices, but the revised budget still assumes an average price of 50 dollars a barrel - above current market levels.
"All expectations say that oil prices will remain low and will not reach 50 dollars anytime soon due to the global recession," said Nabil al-Beldawi, member of the finance committee in the parliament, noting that few experts say prices may even dip to 25 dollars. dpa