Iraq budget offer is to send salaries for 680,000 public servants, says KRG finance minister

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister of Finance Awat Janab speaks during a session of the Kurdistan Parliament on Tuesday July 28, 2020 (NRT Digital Media)

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SULAIMANI — During a session of the Kurdistan Parliament on Tuesday (July 28), Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister of Finance and Economy Awat Janab reported on the state of budget negotiations with the federal government, which he said is only willing to send enough money to pay the salaries of 680,000 public sector employees in the Kurdistan Region.

The minister said the figure is lower than the number of employees that are on the ministries’ rolls.

In April, Baghdad lost patience with the KRG’s refusal over the previous fifteen months to abide by the terms of the federal budget law and stopped all budget transfers to Erbil. Compounded by a precipitous drop in global oil prices, the KRG was unable to pay its hundreds of thousands of public sector workers and delayed disbursements repeatedly.

In June, the KRG decided to cut salaries for government workers making more than 300,000 Iraqi dinars ($252) per month by at least twenty-one percent. That disbursement was made in July, only the second paycheck public servants have received since February.

Janab informed lawmakers that the balance of that disbursement will not be paid back to public servants because of the Region’s dire financial situation, in contrast to previous austerity measures where the government promised to eventually pay workers back.

“If we had not borrowed [money], we would have had to cut 34 percent from the salaries of employees instead,” he said.

During his remarks, Janab claimed that federal officials have openly told the KRG negotiating delegation that, even if they believed that the numbers provided by Erbil, there was not enough money in the federal budget to pay the Region’s full share of the budget, due to the shortfall that Baghdad itself is facing.

Under the 2019 Federal Budget Law, the Kurdistan Region is entitled to 12.67 percent of the budget, should it abide by the terms of the law.

Janab also tried to spread blame for the situation across the Region’s political spectrum, noting that all the parties in the Kurdistan Parliament have at one time or another been a part of the government since 1992, except for the New Generation Movement.

The New Generation Movement was founded in 2018 and has always sat in opposition.

As a result, Janab argued, all of the other parties should be well aware of their responsibility in contributing to the current crisis.

(NRT Digital Media)