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KRG Will Pay Public Sector Salaries ‘from Zakho to Khanaqin,’ Not Baghdad: KRG Adviser

An economic adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) prime minister said on Monday that Erbil will insist on paying the Kurdistan Region’s public sector employees itself, rather than the federal government stepping in to do so directly, a measure that some public servants in the Region advocated during protests last year.

Following a lengthy visit to Baghdad during December, KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani said that the federal government and the KRG had agreed that Erbil will receive 12.67 percent of the 2021 federal budget in return for 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day and a significant portion of the customs income collected at the Region’s international border crossings.

The KRG will use large portions of its share to pay thousands of government employees working in the Kurdistan Region.

The terms of the apparent deal largely follow those of the 2019 Federal Budget Law, which was immediately abrogated by the KRG when it refused to send oil to Baghdad for export. After a fifteen-month impasse, Baghdad stopped sending money to Erbil altogether in April, undercutting the KRG’s ability to pay its wage bill.

While KRG officials rage at the federal government for their inability to pay their own employees, some public servants have said that they want to be paid directly from Baghdad, viewing the federal government as a more reliable paymaster.

“I am sure the Region’s delegation will go back to Baghdad and the negotiations are ongoing,” adviser Rebaz Hamlan said in an interview with Voice of America (VOA) published on Monday.

“We will try our best to secure the salaries of the Kurdistan Region’s public servants for all the Kurdistan Region’s people, not part of it, and reach an agreement with Baghdad later,” he said.

Hamlan argued that the Kurdistan Region is a constitutional entity under the law and that the federal government must work through the KRG, accusing some Kurdish lawmakers in Baghdad of making hay out of the issue for their own political purposes.

“The KRG insists on paying the salaries of public sector employees from Zakho to Khanaqin,” Hamlan said.

He added that the KRG has planned a salary disbursement for mid-January.