KRG PM Barzani says others to blame for slow pace of reform

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani gives speech during the opening ceremony for a section of the new 150 meter highway in Erbil on February 25, 2021 (NRT Digital Media/Screenshot)

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SULAIMANI — At the opening ceremony for a section of the new 150 meter highway in Erbil, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Thursday (February 25) alleged that many people are working to put obstacles in front of the government’s reform program, but did not say what those obstacles were or who was erecting them.

The Kurdistan Parliament passed the government’s pension and salary reform bill in January 2020, with Barzani’s government promising that it would be implemented last summer.

In July, he made a similar accusation, also without being specific or providing details.

The legislation itself was largely limited to low-hanging fruit, such as working to eliminate ghost employees and expand the government’s ability to collect taxes internally, with Barzani promising more to come.

In power since July 2019 and more than a year after the passage of the legislation, it is not clear why his government has not fully implemented the law’s provisions, beyond vague suggestions of impediment by unnamed entities.

In that airy vein, the prime minister declared that that all efforts planned against the KRG had failed, adding that there are many parties and groups who are not happy about the Kurdistan Region’s success.

During his speech at the opening of the new roadway, Barzani said that the KRG is “committed to repaying the companies’ loans and financial help once it overcomes the economic crisis.”

Erbil struggled to pay its public sector wage bill and international oil companies and meet its other financial obligations last year because of low oil prices, the coronavirus pandemic, and budget disagreements with Baghdad. As a result, it turned to local banks and businesspeople for loans.

According to government figures, the KRG has $28 billion is financial obligations and no savings.

Barzani said that in the Kurdistan Region’s draft 2021 budget law, which is the first prepared by the KRG since 2013, that the government will allocate special funding for infrastructure projects in the governorates.

He added that the KRG “will reveal the perpetrators of the rocket attack on Erbil soon,” but did not give details.

(NRT Digital Media)