In Global, Rudaw 

Iraq PM vows to bust bloated pay, duplicate salaries amid economic strife

Cuts to duplicate salaries and the wages of high-ranking officials were among policy decisions made by a government finance committee, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s office announced on Saturday.

The Kadhimi-chaired Financial Reform Committee’s set of decisions aim to achieve “social justice” and tackle the economic strife exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and global oil collapse, according to statements from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Iraq’s government has seven million employees on its payroll who need to be paid with $50 billion annually, according to data from the Iraqi Planning Ministry.

Hanin Qado, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s finance committee told Rudaw that 250,000 civil servants in Iraq receive duplicate and even triplicate salaries.

“This is a massive waste of Iraq’s money and it must be resolved,” Qado said, adding that this corruption has been done through “law and must be resolved also through law.”

There are more than 500,000 ghost employees on the Iraqi government’s payroll, according to Iraq’s Free Dialogue Forum, an assembly of academics, analyst and political pundits.

In a similar bid to deflate the country’s civil service, Iraqi finance minister Ali Allawi on Friday announced the government’s plan to reduce the salaries of civil servants, exempting employees who earn below 500,000 dinars.

Iraq’s economy has taken a devastating hit in recent months, with measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 severely impacting the finances of both the public and private sector. The added plunge of global oil prices have put immense strain on the finances of a country reliant on oil for almost 90 percent of its annual budget.

Iraq did not pass any budgetary legislation for 2020, instead implementing last year’s bill which was adopted on the assumption that Iraqi crude would sell for $56 a barrel. The same amount of oil is currently worth around $29.

Corruption and kronyism in the public sector has been among the top grievances of anti-government protesters, who began taking to the streets since October of last year. More than 600 people have since died after use of lethal force to quell the nationwide protests, according to Amnesty International.

With the Kurdistan Region also blighted by deeply ingrained corruption and inefficiency, the Kurdistan Regional Government passed a highly contentious reform bill to eliminate ghost employees and claims of more than one civil service salary, reduce pensions of MPs and other high ranking officials, and standardize retirement regulations. Source