2020-05-26

PM Masrour Barzani speech on the current financial situation

My fellow citizens,

On the occasion of our Ramadan feast, I extend my warmest wishes to you all. At this time, I call upon you to continue to comply with our health guidelines in order to protect yourselves and your loved ones from the coronavirus pandemic while observing this holy feast.

The whole world, including the Kurdistan Region, is going through a difficult economic period due to the implications of the outbreak and falling oil prices. These are challenging times for the Kurdistan Regional Government. From the outset of this economic crisis, we have been doing our best to ease the financial burden on people throughout our region.

My fellow citizens,

From the start of this cabinet, we exerted all our efforts to resolve problems with Baghdad and to save the Kurdistan Region’s economy from the risks of relying on a single source of revenue.

This difficult economic situation is largely the result of the misplaced policy solely to depend on unstable oil revenues.

As for our relations with Baghdad, we took serious steps to improve our relationship. Immediately after we assumed office in July last year our first visit was to Baghdad. In addition, we expressed complete readiness for a constitutional solution to the various problems with the federal government, and proposed a number of solutions to the issue of oil exports. But unfortunately unrest erupted in Baghdad in October last year, forcing the Iraqi cabinet to resign amid public protests. From then on, the Iraqi government did not take responsibility to resolve the outstanding issues, including Kurdistan Region’s constitutional rights and entitlements, which they have failed to deliver since 2005.

Now that there is a new government in Baghdad, led by Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, we reiterate our readiness to resolve all problems in a way that guarantees the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region as a federal entity, as recognised by the Iraqi constitution.

Recently, a KRG delegation visited Baghdad three times to negotiate a deal on these issues. Dialogue will continue until we reach a fair and constitutional solution to these problems.

Fellow Kurdistanis

This financial crisis makes us even more committed to the strategy of diversifying our economy and the ongoing reform process, as well as putting an end to historical issues regarding public administration and finances.

Our citizens appreciate that correcting these wrongs and putting in place a stable economy needs more time and support from all sides.

Last week I chaired a cabinet meeting and approved the plan to combat this financial crisis. We also issued a number of measures related to the implementation of the Reform Law which remains an important part of the government’s agenda.

We are committed to continuing the reform process and putting an end to the waste of public wealth. Of course, these reforms threaten the interests of a number of individuals involved in corruption. That is why they resist and create obstacles. Reform is a demand from the vast majority for our citizens, and I will remain on their side. And with the help of our citizens, reforms will continue. We will not reverse course.

Of course, these reform measures must be comprehensive and apply to us all. No individual or faction must be allowed – for personal or political interests – to block reform.

I call on all sides to recognise their solemn responsibility to support us, protect our unity, and help the government in modernising the economy and public administration and improving public services.

In particular, I call on the Kurdistani representatives in the federal parliament to put aside individual and political interests and to unite behind protecting the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region.

This financial crisis is the result of a number of historical and political factors. This is in addition to the budget cut from the Iraqi government, as well as the global financial slowdown. However, this difficult situation cannot be used as a political tool to undermine each other, sow internal divisions or break up any part of our region under any pretext whatsoever.

In the government’s agenda, it clearly states a commitment to work to decentralise powers to governorates in a way that is in line with the region’s legal and administrative framework. Furthermore, provincial duties and responsibilities, in accordance with the law and under the supervision of the cabinet, will be devolved to prevent corruption and the abuse of power. We therefore support decentralisation in a way that continues to protect the integrity of the Kurdistan Region.

We have done everything possible to provide for citizens’ needs and public salaries. In the nine months the new cabinet has been in office, we have paid public sector salaries for eight months, with only one payment delayed.

We have also taken a number of decisions to reduce the burden on low-income families and those who, as a result of the public health and safety measures, have incurred losses.

But we must find a way to adapt to any unforeseen crisis. In line with our revenues and capacity, we have put in a place a plan for this difficult stage: the budget and expenses of government bodies and salaries will be organised and in accordance with measures outlined in the Reform Law.

Fellow citizens,

In my inauguration speech in the Kurdistan Parliament, I made clear that the government is in debt. This now stands at $27 billion. Most of the responsibility for this debt rests with previous Iraqi governments for their failure to deliver the budget of the Kurdistan Region. As a result, unfortunately the government has no reserves, forcing us to depend on revenues received monthly.

This leads to great uncertainty whenever financial crises emerge.

This is no secret. Unfortunately, this fact is often ignored. Indeed, political and national issues are ignored and the focus is put on salaries, despite critics knowing well the sources of these salaries.

When the income from our oil revenues stood at $700 million a month, over $400 million was spent on production, as well as transport and loan payments. Only $300 million was deposited in government accounts. Furthermore, only $383 million was received from Baghdad. This is inadequate to provide public sector salaries, and a significant amount of internal revenues was therefore used to pay salaries. On top of this, the necessary funds for running government and services were used from internal revenues. Nevertheless, there was still a $60 million monthly deficit.

Now, oil prices have fallen significantly. For example, last month, the total net revenue from oil sales deposited in the treasury was just $30 million. Internal revenues were merely $60 million. And the federal payments from Baghdad have been delayed. This financial crisis has not only affected Kurdistan Region, but the entire world. Some countries face financial collapse.

It is clear that in the past government spending has been both unjust and mismanaged.

80% of our revenue goes to public sector salaries; public sector beneficiaries make up 20% of the population.

This ratio, according to common global standards, is far more than necessary for the Kurdistan Region. In the best of financial circumstances, 15% of the budget was used for running government and services, leaving less than 5% for investment.

This unfair distribution has come at the expense of both potential reserves for the future and investing in the next generation.

This nation cannot prosper by only paying salaries. We need a stronger foundation.

It is not possible for citizens to only collect salaries but have no access to more water and electricity, better schools and hospitals, and safer roads. And even to be in need of basic public services.

Governance is not only about paying salaries.

That is why we together – as citizens, government and political parties – need to make a consequential decision that even in better financial circumstances most of the revenues cannot be spent on public sector salaries. We must use a significant part of the budget for increasing public services and building a stronger economy.

No government can employ so many citizens in the public sector and pay salaries. Only through developing our economic foundations, and encouraging investment, can more job opportunities be created. Our nation’s income and resources therefore must be spent towards this goal.

We must all, together, have a plan to correct this current financial system. This is not an easy decision. For our region, it is a consequential decision, between two choices, forward and backward. This issue, for the sake of a prosperous future, is important for our region, and cannot be used as a tool for rivalry or be politicised.

Fellow citizens,

This difficult situation which experts predict may continue for some time requires us all to help to reduce the burden on low-income families. I assure you that this government, since the start of this crisis, has put in place a plan for medicine and food security. In accordance with this plan, public and private depots, at least until the end of the year, have been filled with food and medicine, and there will be no shortage of either in the markets of the Kurdistan Region. Moreover, trade in medicine and food continues.

In accordance with our plan, and besides the monthly food rations, the government will soon start to distribute food directly among low-income families.

We in the Kurdistan Region took early measures with social distancing to counter the coronavirus. Protecting ourselves is the best response. I thank you all for complying with the measures. But in recent days compliance has fallen.

We appreciate the burden on you and your families, but we must all understand that this disease continues to be a threat around the world.

The public safety measures for everyone – such as wearing face masks in public and regularly washing hands and avoiding large public gatherings – must continue.

Those who do not follow these measures are actively risking the lives, not just of themselves, but those of their families and fellow citizens.

According to the World Health Organisation and others, the Kurdistan Regional Government social distancing and public safety measures have been very successful. Yet unfortunately there are individuals who downplay the importance of those efforts.

Despite all the pressure and the ongoing financial crisis, the government’s response to the coronavirus has emerged as a successful example of containing the spread of the disease.

I assure you, our citizens, that the government cares first and foremost about your safety and well-being. I urge you not to be deceived by false and unrealistic propaganda. We listen to your criticisms and your comments, and we take into account legitimate and realistic demands. We also understand them. But all of us must also have a comprehensive understanding of the difficult situation we find ourselves in.

I thank you for your resilience and for your sacrifice.

I am certain that with your help we will get through this difficult chapter, and that Kurdistan will move forward together toward prosperity. In that moment, I am certain that many will emerge to claim the success and achievements.

In closing, I wish you all again a happy Eid. And I urge you all to continue to comply with the vital public health measures. This is a national, religious and human duty.

I wish you all continued health and safety.

The video of the speech 

 

Barzani Eid

President Nechirvan Barzani’s statement on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, May 23, 2020

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani issued a congratulatory message as Muslims around the world prepare to celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan beginning on Sunday. Below is the message:

As we begin to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr, I extend my warmest greetings to the families of our fallen martyrs, Peshmerga heroes and Muslims in Kurdistan, Iraq and around the world. I hope that the arrival of this celebration encourages everyone further towards unity, tolerance, harmony and mutual respect. I also hope this celebration will bring about prosperity and puts an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises.

We celebrate Eid al-Fitr at a time when the Kurdistan Region, similar to other countries across the region and the world, is faced with the threat of the further spread of the COVID-19 outbreak and its wide-ranging impacts. The economic consequences of this pandemic have been large-scale, both in our country and around the world. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we in the Kurdistan Region continue to stay united and work together to confront this challenging situation and overcome the current hardships. Similar to past crises, it is only through joint efforts, consensus and cooperation among all of us that we can come out of the current difficulties as victors.

On this occasion, we reiterate that the Kurdistan Region Presidency will remain a unifying factor for all the political groups and communities in Kurdistan. It will work, represent and serve all fellow citizens in Kurdistan regardless of party and political affiliations or ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds.

Happy Eid al-Fitr to everyone. I wish everyone good health and urge my fellow citizens to follow the protective measures against the pandemic.

May God protect Kurdistan, our people and everyone around the world.

Nechirvan Barzani
Kurdistan Region President

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Prime Minister Masrour Barzani meets investment board, reiterates commitment to diverse economy

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Wednesday chaired a meeting of the High Council for Investment to discuss current economic situation and the need to further develop investment in the Kurdistan Region.

In the meeting attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani and other cabinet members, Prime Minister Barzani stressed that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is working to build a stronger economy.

The Prime Minister also said the government will further develop agriculture, industry and tourism sectors to diversify the economy. In that regard, the meeting also covered amendments to the investment law expected to be submitted to the cabinet for approval.

The meeting stressed that investment projects should serve the public needs and interest.

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President Nechirvan Barzani reiterates support for rights of ethnic and religious communities

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, May 17, 2020

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani met with the representatives of ethnic and religious groups who have members in the Kurdistan Parliament and who are participating in the Kurdistan Regional Government.

At the meeting, the delegates shared their views on the current state of affairs in the Kurdistan Region and discussed the role and position of the ethnic and religious communities in the Region’s political and administrative affairs. The representatives also reiterated the importance of safeguarding their communities’ rights and fair representation in the Kurdistan Region’s public institutions and administrative bodies.

The representatives expressed appreciation to the Kurdistan Region Presidency, which has worked to bring all groups and communities together and encouraged tolerance, peaceful coexistence and mutual respect among communities in the country.

The delegates also touched upon a number of issues that their respective communities encounter while engaged in administrative and political activities. They spoke about shortcomings in public services in some areas and urged the Kurdistan Region Presidency to help offset these shortcomings.

President Nechirvan Barzani stressed the importance of safeguarding unity, tolerance and mutual respect and pledged full support for the rights of all communities in the Kurdistan Region in its future constitution. The president said that the Kurdistan Region takes pride in being a safe and stable home to all its communities and stressed that the rich cultural, ethnic and religious mosaic of the Kurdistan Region must be enhanced and protected.

President Nechirvan Barzani said that the Kurdistan Region is passing through a period, which calls for maximum cooperation and solidarity among all political parties and communities. The president stressed that political stability, unity and tolerance must be a priority for all groups and parties in the country in order to overcome the current hardships facing the Region. For this purpose, the Kurdistan Region Presidency will continue to work with the KRG, the Kurdistan Parliament and all the Region’s relevant institutions, political parties and groups, the president emphasized.

The president reiterated his and Kurdistan Region Presidency’s full support for all ethnic and religious groups in the Kurdistan Region and emphasized that they are ancient components and citizens of the Kurdistan Region. The president added that the freedoms of all communities in Kurdistan must be recognized and safeguarded and that these communities must not be dragged into internal political disputes. The president concluded that any form of pressure against the ethnic and religious communities in the Kurdistan Region will not be accepted.

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Prime Minister Barzani chairs cabinet meeting, calls for constitutional solution to problems with Baghdad

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – Prime Minister Masrour Barzani chaired a cabinet meeting in Erbil on Wednesday to discuss economic conditions in the Kurdistan Region and outstanding problems with the federal government.

In the meeting, which was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, the Prime Minister wished success to the new Iraqi cabinet, and stressed the need for a constitutional solution to ongoing issues between Erbil and Baghdad.

The cabinet discussed proposed draft bills covering the selling and renting of public properties, investment, and patients’ rights. Relevant departments in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) were assigned to prepare final drafts for parliament.

Prime Minister Barzani said the Kurdistan Region is going through difficult economic times due to falling oil prices and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and must make adjustments due to limited financial resources.

He called for a review of the economy in light of the regional financial downturn, and underlined the importance of continuing to implement the Reform Law (2020).

The Prime Minister said the KRG will do its best to pay public sector salaries, and reiterated his commitment to continue providing public services and strengthening the region’s infrastructure.

During the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Talabani provided an update on recent discussions with federal authorities on budgetary issues and oil exports. He said dialogue with Baghdad will continue to reach a deal on outstanding problems.

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President Nechirvan Barzani meets with President Barham Salih

Sulaimaniya, Kurdistan Region, May 11, 2020

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani met with Iraq’s President Dr. Barham Salih in Slemani on Monday to discuss the current political situation in the country following the formation of the new Iraqi government. The two presidents underlined the necessity to find sustainable solutions to Iraq’s current crises.

The latest political developments in the country were also discussed in the meeting as both presidents reiterated the need to resolve the current disputes. Restoring peace and stability in Iraq and efforts to ease the economic hardships of households across the country, including in the Kurdistan Region, were also highlighted.

Both presidents appreciated the formation of the new Iraqi cabinet led by Prime Minister Mustafa Al- Kadhimi and expressed support for Iraq’s new federal government. The two sides also pledged full cooperation and support to the federal government in order to end the deadlocks and assist families across the country to maintain better health conditions and sustainable livelihoods.

The two presidents also said that support and cooperation were needed to end the remnants of terrorist groups and to ensure security in all of Iraq. Resolving the pending issues between Baghdad and Kurdistan Region, in accordance with the constitution, in particular the issue of budget and salaries of the employees of Kurdistan Region were also highlighted in the meeting.

President Nechirvan Barzani and President Barham Salih stressed the importance of unity and de-escalation of tensions in Iraq while directing all national efforts to ensure stability, economic recovery and deep-seated reforms. Both sides underlined that internal disputes must be sidelined in favor of serving the public and supporting their demands.

Preserving unity and consensus in the Kurdistan Region were also highlighted as the two presidents encouraged all political groups in Kurdistan to put the differences aside and ease tensions in the country. Assisting fellow citizens through the current economic hardships and strengthening political stability and security must be the priority of all groups, the two presidents emphasized.

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Prime Minister Barzani convenes cabinet, approves blueprint to ease financial downturn

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – Prime Minister Masrour Barzani chaired a cabinet meeting in Erbil to discuss the government’s plan to deal with the economic downturn caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.

In the meeting, which was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, the cabinet approved a blueprint to reduce expenditures, increase revenues and continue implementing the Reform Law (2020).

Deputy Prime Minister Talabani briefed the cabinet on recent discussions with federal authorities on budgetary issues and oil exports. The Deputy Prime Minister is heading a delegation to Baghdad for a second consecutive week, to continue these discussions.

The KRG made the following decisions to reduce government expenses:

1. Reduce the salaries of members of parliament and high-level officials within the Presidency of the Kurdistan Region, the KRG, the Council of Justice, Provincial Councils, the Security Council, as well as high-level military officials and high-earning pensioners.
2. Provide only basic salaries to officials higher then general directors, including governors, mayors and councillors. The Ministry of Finance and Economy will enforce this decision for 30 days.
3. The Ministry of Finance and Economy will pay only those employees who have registered in the biometric system.
4. Reduce the government’s operational budget. This budget will now cover essential services including purchasing medicines, medical equipment and food for hospitals, as well as funds for prisons and care homes, cleaning cities, providing water and electricity, and road maintenance.
5. Provide an online service to manage the operational budget to enhance transparency and reduce bureaucracy.
6. Suspend investment budgets, for ministry projects and provincial development schemes.
7. The Council of Ministers, in coordination with the Ministry of Finance and Economy, will review the operational budget for all ministries and institutions in the Kurdistan Region.
8. Prevent ministries from spending their own revenues.
9. Review service costs in the oil and gas sector.

The cabinet also made the following decisions to increase revenues:

1. Review border crossing service contracts provided by the private sector in a way that serves the public interest.
2. Revoke tariff exemptions that are incompatible with the KRG’s laws.
3. Strengthen border crossing regulations to prevent irregularities that reduce government revenues.
4. Ensure local companies working in the oil and gas, security, communications and construction sectors pay tax in accordance with the law.
5. Review how companies collect service fees from ministries in order to serve the public interest.
6. Impose taxes on oil imports and refineries.
7. The Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources will prepare a list of all agricultural lands which have been trespassed, and review the contracts of all lands which have been leased.
8. Reclaim land given to licensed investment projects which have not started.
9. Notarise land given to individual, as well as residential units under the name of owners and review service fees at residential complexes.
10. Every ministry will conduct a survey of its properties so they considered as a source of public income.
11. The Ministry of Finance and Economy will recover trade debts according to the Reform Law.
12. The private sector will be given the go-ahead to provide electricity, and collect electricity fees, under government supervision.
13. The private sector will be allowed to buy and trade farmers’ wheat in the Kurdistan Region under government supervision in a bid to support the agriculture sector.
14. The KRG will provide discounts to people covering their overdue mortgages, wedding loans and small debts provided they return the entire overdue amounts by 15 June 2020.

The cabinet also made the following decisions to ease the financial burden on those affected by the lockdown measures imposed to protect the public from the coronavirus:

1. The KRG will not take rent from people using government property for trade, industry, agriculture or other purposes, during the curfew imposed by the pandemic virus.
2. People will not be liable for late payment of fines incurred by violating government laws, if these delays were caused by KRG coronavirus regulations.
3. The Minister of Religious Affairs should take legal action against those people who lease its properties but make no payments.
4. There will be a 15% discount for water and electricity charges until 15 June 2020.
5. The Tax Office will not take income tax for the duration of the curfew.

The KRG also made the following decisions on resuming work at ministries:

1. Work will resume at the Council of Ministries’ Diwan on 6 May.
2. It will be at the ministries’ discretion to resume work at their offices on 11 May.
3. The KRG Department of Information Technology will where possible coordinate with government bodies to process peoples’ work electronically.
4. People can visit KRG institutions after 11 May, while taking health guidelines into consideration.

The cabinet also discussed recent calls from some local authorities for greater decentralisation. More decentralisation will occur under the guidance and supervision of the Council of Ministers, in accordance with the cabinet’s agenda.

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Deloitte report on Oil and Gas review in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, with newly added disclosures on prepayment balances – 2019

The KRG’s Regional Council of Oil and Gas Affairs has published a report containing verified statistics covering the Kurdistan Region’s oil exports, consumption and revenues for 2019.

The report, available in Kurdish, English and Arabic, provides a quarterly analysis of oil export information and average prices, together with a consolidated annual overview.

The data verification was performed by Deloitte.

The KRG regularly assesses what additional disclosures would enhance the transparency of its oil and gas sector. Accordingly, with the release of the 2019 report, the KRG is now providing information on the prepayment balances it owes to oil traders.

The Regional Council for Oil and Gas Affairs acknowledges the positive feedback received so far from domestic and international stakeholders. The council reiterates its commitment to the people of Kurdistan that Deloitte will continue to independently review the region’s oil and gas sector.

A frequently asked questions handbook (also available in Kurdish, English and Arabic) will help readers to understand the report’s contents.

The report is available here. 

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Prime Minister Barzani meets KRG delegation to Baghdad, calls for continued dialogue to protect constitutional rights

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Saturday met with the delegation that visited Baghdad last week to address disputes with federal authorities.

Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, who led the delegation, briefed Prime Minister Barzani on the their discussions. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is committed to continuing dialogue with Baghdad to defend Kurdistan Region’s constitutional rights.

The delegation will return to Baghdad this week for follow-up.

In the meeting, the cabinet discussed the current financial situation and decided to use current funds to pay public sector salaries. Last month, the federal government cut the KRG’s share of the federal budget, which mainly accounts for these salaries.

The cabinet also stressed the importance of continuing to implement the Reform Law (2020) and decided to recover debt from companies as quickly as possible to ease the government’s financial burden.

Finally, the cabinet reviewed recent calls from some local authorities in the Kurdistan Region for greater decentralisation. In that regard, they recalled that this is part of the government stated agenda and must emerge under the supervision and guidance of the Council of Ministers.

Cabinet reiterated support for the unity of the Kurdistan Region and opposed any effort to undermine it.

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Deputy Prime Minister Talabani meets with UNAMI and WHO representatives, thanks them for aid in fight against coronavirus

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani on Sunday met with representatives from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Erbil, to discuss the latest developments in the fight against the coronavirus.

The Deputy Prime Minister expressed gratitude for the aid the Kurdistan Region has received from UNAMI and WHO. In the meeting, the Deputy Prime Minister reiterated the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) commitment to following scientific and public health guidelines in fighting the disease.

UNAMI’s Special Representative, Ms. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, and WHO’s Representative to Iraq, Dr Adham Ismail, commended the lockdown measures taken by the KRG.

The Deputy Prime Minister thanked the representatives for their continued help.