The Iraqi government could end the year with as much as a $79 billion budget surplus as ever-increasing oil revenues pile on top of leftover income the Iraqis still haven't spent on their national rebuilding effort, congressional auditors say.
A report by the Government Accountability Office made public on Tuesday prompted renewed calls from senators that Baghdad pay more of the bill for its own reconstruction, which has been heavily supported with US funds.
The projected Iraq surplus, including unspent money from 2005 through 2008, has been building because of rising world oil prices, increasing Iraqi oil production, the government's inability to execute budgets for spending its money and persistent violence in the country, the GAO said.
The GAO 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 expected surplus could be lower if Iraq passes stalled legislation for a $22 billion supplemental budget for 2008 - and if the government then executes the budget.
The report also estimated that this year Iraq could generate $67 billion to $79 billion in oil sales. Other US officials previously had said they expected the oil windfall to be about $70 billion.