Protest in Sulaymaniya over salaries (Rudaw)
On March 18, Baghdad announced it would pay the salaries of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) public workers. It sent 317 billion dinars, $267 million to the KRG’s Finance Ministry. The Kurds responded that they needed 900 billion dinars to pay all their obligations, but 590 billion if it was to cover their employees with their pay cuts that were instituted in 2014 due to the region’s financial crisis. The central government covered 53% of that latter amount, and 35% of the full salaries. According to Iraqi officials this was by design with the Kurds responsible for the other half. Irbil has complained that Baghdad did not provide enough funds, and KRG civil servants have said they only got half their wages.
On March 25 protests broke out in Sulaymaniya, Irbil and Dohuk over the salaries. Workers expected to be paid their full, non-austerity wages now that Baghdad has sent money. The KRG’s cabinet met and responded that it would come up with a new pay scale. Still, it doesn’t appear that the regional government paid its half of the money and only distributed the funds that came from the Abadi government. A meeting between the two sides is supposed to be held soon to talk more about this dispute.
The central and regional governments have been complaining about the budget for years. The Maliki administration originally cut off the KRG over its independent oil policy. There were short term attempts to resolve those differences with Kurdistan exporting petroleum for the Oil Ministry, but those all broke down. After the September 2017 independence referendum, the Abadi government imposed a number of sanctions on Irbil. The two sides are now attempting to reconcile with the prime minister promising to pay KRG salaries. Obviously, there is still a lot of differences over what exactly that entails.
Baghdad Post, “Baghdad approves paying halted salaries to Kurdistan’s employees,” 3/18/18
Coker, Margret, “After Months of Acrimony, Baghdad Strikes Deal With Kurds,” New York Times, 3/22/18
Kurd Press, “Iraq sets condition to pay salaries of Kurdish employees,” 3/20/18
Rudaw, “Doctors strike against KRG austerity, demand full salaries,” 3/18/18
- “LIVE: Fed up with austerity, civil servants protest across Kurdistan,” 3/25/18