Erbil Takes on Tough Negotiations with Baghdad over Unpaid Wages

Faced with raging protests in the Sulaymaniyah province and other parts of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, officials from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are spearheading fierce negotiations with Baghdad to pay the wages of public employees.

Since early December, locals in the autonomous northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan have been holding anti-government protests because local authorities have failed to pay the salaries in full since April.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi pledged to respond to the protesters’ demands, noting that the popular anger is ‘justified.”

“I relate deeply with the suffering of our people in the Kurdistan region, especially in Sulaymaniyah, the land of mountains and culture,” he tweeted.

Despite previous failed negotiations between Baghdad and Erbil on the issue of financial entitlements of the KRG, the Kurdish leaderships has no option but to continue negotiating with Baghdad with the hope of getting its hands on funds needed to fulfill protesters’ demands, even if for a short while.

Financial and political experts in Iraq, however, believe it is highly unlikely for a solution to be found, citing the Iraqi financial crisis, aggravated by corruption and low oil prices.

Nevertheless, Kadhimi and parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi on Saturday hosted a KRG delegation in Baghdad to discuss the financial disagreements.

During the meeting, attended by several Iraqi ministers and high-level officials, the Kurdish and Iraqi delegations discussed the Fiscal Deficit Financing Act, which the Iraqi parliament passed last month.

Kadhimi’s office said in an online statement that the meeting emphasized on a mechanism that would help the fair distribution and allocation of the funds to all parts of Iraq.

Despite Iraqi parliament’s passage of the Deficit Law without the Kurdish representatives, the KRG has already expressed commitment to the law as a sign of goodwill towards the federal government and a future fair agreement.

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