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Kurdistan Region's Council of Ministers discusses coronavirus, looming financial problems

First virtual meeting of cabinet
Image credit; Twitter/@masrour_barzani
2020-04-01

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SULAIMANI — The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Council of Ministers met on Wednesday (April 1) to discuss the state of play with regard to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and a looming financial crisis due to the collapse in the price of oil.

The meeting was held virtually as a preventative measure against spreading coronavirus.

“Today I chaired the first ever online KRG cabinet meeting. The‪ coronavirus won’t stop our government coming together to make the necessary decisions to guide us through this difficult chapter,” KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said in a statement.

According to the health ministry, there have been 176 cases of coronavirus in the Kurdistan Region. Sixty-one patients have recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus infection, and two have died from it.

The entire Kurdistan Region is currently under a curfew to prevent the virus from spreading and the government is largely shut down.

Compounding this economic disruption, the global price of oil has collapsed over the past several weeks, raising the prospect that the KRG will be unable to make payroll.

Some senior politicians have raised the prospect that the government will have to reinstitute some austerity measures, which are broadly unpopular with the public.

On Wednesday night, Head of the Change Movement (Gorran) caucus in the Kurdistan Parliament Ali Hama Salih told NRT’s Tawtwe interview program that no decision has been made yet about the salaries of the Region’s public sector workers Council of Ministers.

Hama Salih said that the reform bill will be implemented starting this month and it will only reorganize the salaries and nothing else.

“The economic situation of the Kurdistan Regional Government right now is worse than it was in 2016 because the government’s income has decreased by $500 million,” Hama Salih said.

He added that his party would respond to when the government proposed a plan to deal with the shortfall.

The current cabinet is led by the Kurdistan Democratic Party( (KDP) as the largest party, but the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Gorran also are members of the cabinet.

(NRT Digital Media)

This story was updated at 9:27 p.m. EBL