CBNNews.com - The Iraqi government may end the year with a $79 billion budget surplus -- thanks to oil revenues and money unspent on their national rebuilding effort, congressional auditors say.
The report by the Government Accountability Office released Tuesday said Iraq had an estimated cumulative budget surplus of about $29 billion from 2005 to 2007 and could have another surplus of up to $50 billion this year.
The report estimated that this year Iraq could generate $67 billion to $79 billion in oil sales.
Other U.S. officials previously had said they expected the oil windfall to be about $70 billion.
"This substantial increase in revenues offers the Iraqi government the potential to better finance its own security and economic needs," the GAO said.
The report renewed calls from senators that Baghdad pay more of the bill for its own reconstruction.
The U.S. has largely borne the financial burden of rebuilding the country.
"The Iraqi government now has tens of billions of dollars at its disposal to fund large-scale reconstruction projects," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement. "It is inexcusable for U.S. taxpayers to continue to foot the bill for projects the Iraqis are fully capable of funding themselves."
"It is time for the sovereign government of Iraq, using its revenues, expenditures and surpluses, to fully assume the responsibility to provide essential services and improve the quality of life for the Iraqi people," Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said.
The two senators, both officials on the Senate Armed Services Committee, requested the audit by the GAO.
In the meantime, Iraq's planning minister, Ali Baban, defended his country's position.
"I admit that there is some delay in spending the money on the projects in the provinces and in the ministries," Baban told the New York Times. "We have problems in this issue because there are lots of obstacles we face, because of the situation that we're going through. We're trying to deal with that, we're trying to improve things, but you know the situation in Iraq."
Source: The Associated Press, The New York Times