By Adam Lucente for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Criticism mounts in Iraqi Kurdistan over unpaid teacher salaries

Ferhat is an English teacher at a public school in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region.

His salary comes from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), but five months into 2020 he has only been paid his monthly salary twice. Payment problems over the years forced him and other teachers to take on second jobs.

“It’s very difficult for us,” Ferhat told Al-Monitor. “Each one of us has to work after school to live.”

Click here to read the full story.

Cabinet announces Eid holiday, authorises payment of May salaries of state employees

The Cabinet held its regular meeting in Baghdad on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

At the start of the meeting, the Prime Minister told the Cabinet that the government is determined to overcome the security, economic and health challenges facing the country, and urged all state institutions to work as a team to combat corruption and cut red-tape.

The Cabinet discussed Iraq’s national efforts to combat Covid-19, and received a briefing from the Minister of Health who reiterated the importance of continuing to follow official health advice, social distancing measures and abiding by the curfew.

The Cabinet discussed measures to mitigate the effects of the economic crisis on citizens, cut the deficit and maximize non-oil revenues.

The Cabinet authorised the Ministry of Finance to borrow to address the financial deficit caused by low oil prices.

Following discussions, the Cabinet decided to:

  • Authorise the payment of the salaries of state employees for May in full
  • Declare 21 – 28 May as Eid Al-Fitr holiday, and impose a total curfew during this period

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

By Dr Amer K. Hirmis.

Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Public sector investment in Iraq – What strategic priorities for the new Prime Minister?

Iraq is still in turmoil, four months since the Uprising, in October 2019. Meanwhile, Prime Minister (PM) Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned. Muhammad Tawfiq Allawi i has been appointed as PM-designate.

Mr. Allawi has already been rejected by the Uprising, as an affiliate to the failed post-2003 ethno-sectarian political system. Political uncertainty thus continues, and with it investment decisions in the public and private sectors.

Whoever the new PM may end up to be, two key challenges will face him; political and economic.

On the political front, the new PM will need to prove, by action, that he has the will and determination to serve the Iraqi people, rather than bend to ethno-sectarian interests that have shaped politics and the economy post-2003. A system that normalised pervasive corruption, sidelined the rule of law, freedom of thought and expression, peaceful gathering and the right to protest. A system that, inter alia, stalled economic development, leading to high unemployment, and marginalised, if not atomised, millions of Iraqis living in poverty.

On the economic front, the challenges are just as great as the political ones. The new PM will have only the near-term to rise to these challenges – possibly a major review of the current ‘Government Programme,’ the ‘Construction Council’ bill, and various economic “road maps” laid out by the current ‘Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee’ (PMAC), e.g. “vision 2030”, as well as comprehensive institutional reforms. He will need to draw together all these, and more, and produce a short-term realistic, rational and workable economic programme, on which more below.

Simply put, the Uprising anticipates economic reforms that create new jobs, use oil revenues for investment in productive sectors of the economy, across the country and substantially reduces the size of government employment, of which the pay roll easily absorbs over 50 percent of the national budget.

The Uprising also demands early general elections, ushering a process of defragmentation of the allegedly corrupt institutions, and observing good governance and the rule of law, amongst other reforms.

Please click here to download Dr Hirmis’ full report in pdf format.

Dr Amer K. Hirmis is Principal at UK-based consultancy CBS Ltd. (2008-present). In October 2009, Amer began a 20-months assignment as Senior Development Planning Advisor to the Ministry of Planning in Iraq (funded under the DANIDA programme for ‘peace and reconstruction’ in Iraq). The posts Amer has assumed include Chief Economist and Head of Policy at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (1992-5), Economic Advisor to UK South West Regional Development Agency (1996-8) and Associate Director and then Head of Consulting and Research (Middle East) at the global firm DTZ (1998 to 2007).

Dr Amer K Hirmis is the author of ‘The Economics of Iraq – ancient past to distant future’

[https://www.amazon.com/Economics-Iraq-Ancient-distant-future/dp/1999824105]

KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani has today chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the draft Reform Bill, a central pillar of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s agenda.

Developed as a joint initiative involving all parties in the government, the Reform Bill includes a series of measures designed to provide more certainty and accountability on salaries, pensions and allowances for public servants.

Discussing the Bill, the Prime Minister confirmed that as well as providing more security for public servants, the Bill would also serve to streamline public expenditure by ensuring only public workers eligible for benefits receive them.

The Prime Minister noted that the Reform Bill represents the latest in a series of steps taken to transform the civil service, increasing transparency and creating a fair system for hardworking public sector employees.

The cabinet approved the draft Reform Bill by a majority vote. The Bill has now been sent to the Kurdistan Parliament for debate.

(Source: KRG)

KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani has today chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the draft Reform Bill, a central pillar of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s agenda.

Developed as a joint initiative involving all parties in the government, the Reform Bill includes a series of measures designed to provide more certainty and accountability on salaries, pensions and allowances for public servants.

Discussing the Bill, the Prime Minister confirmed that as well as providing more security for public servants, the Bill would also serve to streamline public expenditure by ensuring only public workers eligible for benefits receive them.

The Prime Minister noted that the Reform Bill represents the latest in a series of steps taken to transform the civil service, increasing transparency and creating a fair system for hardworking public sector employees.

The cabinet approved the draft Reform Bill by a majority vote. The Bill has now been sent to the Kurdistan Parliament for debate.

(Source: KRG)

By Ali Al-Mawlawi.

Public Payroll Expansion in Iraq: Causes and Consequences

The public payroll in Iraq has grown unchecked since 2003, commensurate with the country’s vastly expanding oil wealth.

With few alternative sources of government income, the state budget’s growth poses worrying questions about whether this ongoing trend can be sustained without risking economic ruin.

Click here to read the full report from the London School of Economics.

The report will be launched at the LSE’s Middle East Centre on Tuesday 3rd December, 6:00pm to 7:30pm, with speakers Ali Al-Mawlawi, Alia Moubayed and Toby Dodge.

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Government has said it will reduce the salaries of ministers, members of parliament, and senior officials by up to 50 percent, and invest the money saved in a new social security fund to support Iraqis in need.

In a statement on Friday, it also announced the establishment of a special anti-corruption court to expedite the process of holding to account all those who engage in corruption.

(Source: Iraqi Govt)

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Thousands of university graduates in oil-rich Iraq are protesting outside government ministries in Baghdad, demanding jobs.

Unemployment for young adults stands at 22 percent and the government admits it has not planned for the large numbers of students coming into the job market every year.

Years of conflict have hollowed out the country’s economy.

Al Jazeera‘s Charles Stratford reports from Baghdad:

By John Lee.

The Iraqi government has said it intends to extend pension rights and other benefits to public sector employees on short term and daily contracts.

At a cabinet meeting in Baghdad on Tuesday, Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi told the Cabinet that the government intends to introduce measures to give public sector employees on short-term and daily contracts the same pension rights and other benefits currently enjoyed by their colleagues on permanent contacts.

(Source: Government of Iraq)

A new report by Ali Al-Mawlawi (pictured) argues that the illusive nature of long-term stability in the Middle East necessitates a strong commitment by Iraq’s political leaders to develop a sustainable economic and fiscal regime that can absorb future shocks to the system.

According to the World Bank, government expenditure as a percentage of GDP averaged at 52 percent between 2005 and 2012, making it amongst the highest in the region.

Modernising Iraq’s bureaucracy through a public financial management (PFM) approach will be critical, the report says.

Click here to read the full report.