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9. May 2023 19:38
KRG finance ministry spokesperson reports decline in non-oil revenues
Hunar Jamal, spokesman for the KRG's finance ministry, informed NRT Kurdish reporter Karzan Othman that the region's non-oil revenues have also recently declined, partly due to reasons related to the way customs are collected and partly due to lower local tax revenues. He said irregularities take place when collecting customs at the KRI border points, such as reducing the value of goods to pay less in customs fees.
The question here is why such irregularities, which are common in both the KRI and Iraq, have led to a decline in non-oil revenues at this time when they have not before.
Following the halt of oil exports from the KRI in March, Finance Minister Awat Sheikh Janab stated earlier this month that the KRG lacks the funds to pay April salaries. With oil sales making up the majority of the KRG's revenues and now running dry, it appears that Baghdad may be Erbil's only hope for covering public sector salaries.
9. May 2023 19:06
Investigation launched into alleged assault of female teacher in Erbil
Erbil education officials have announced the formation of a committee to investigate the alleged assault of a female teacher, who claims she was physically attacked by three colleagues with fists and a steel rule, resulting in bleeding hands.
Luqman Saadi, the head of Erbil's Education Department, stated that if Maryam Hassan's claims are found to be true, "severe regulations" would be enforced against the suspects. As of now, no arrests have been made, pending the results of the Education Ministry's investigation.
Hassan alleges that she was assaulted by three fellow teachers due to her refusal to disclose exam questions to their children, who also attend the same school. Furthermore, she claims that the school principal deducted money from her salary without consent to purchase items for school staff. Saadi confirmed that an investigation into this allegation is also underway.
It is worth noting that most school principals in the Kurdistan Region are appointed based on their political party affiliations.
9. May 2023 18:45
Snap analysis on the Gorran's recent political maneuvers: A Time for Reflection ?
By Nova Daban
Recently, under the leadership of Kurdistan Region Vice President Mustafa Said Qadir and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, representatives from the PUK and the Change Movement (Gorran) in Sulaymaniyah's local government got together and released a joint statement.
The statement highlighted the importance of stronger relations between the parties and their government teams to stand up for Sulaymaniyah's legitimate demands and needs.
In Iraq's last election, Gorran, which teamed up with PUK to form the Kurdistan Coalition, didn't win any seats. This outcome can be traced back to Gorran's transition from an opposition party to a junior coalition partner in the Kurdistan Regional Government, after making a deal with the KDP. On top of that, Gorran allied with PUK, the very party it left behind in 2009, for the elections in Baghdad.
Lacking a clear direction, Gorran might face tough times in the upcoming Kurdistan Region elections. The party managed to secure a quarter of the available parliamentary seats in the Kurdistan Region in the 2009 and 2013 elections, thanks to its strong opposition credentials. However, in the 2018 elections, Gorran's seats were halved following the loss of its founder and charismatic Kurdish leader Nawshirwan Mustafa a year earlier, leaving a void in leadership.
As part of the government now, Gorran's voter base could be up for grabs by other parties, especially those considering going back to PUK or opting for another opposition party like the New Generation Movement (NGM). It seems a period of self-reflection is in order for Gorran, as they must decide whether to dissolve and return to PUK or be part of a broader coalition that offers a genuine alternative to the ruling KDP and PUK parties.
25 Years On, US Mediation Remains Crucial In Resolving Barzani-Talabani Conflicts
The piece examines the recent surprise meeting between KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Deputy PM Qubad Talabani, signaling a renewal of dialogue between the KDP and PUK parties after months of strained relations.
Nova looks back on the history of US involvement in Kurdish politics and suggests that, 25 years later, the region still relies heavily on foreign mediation to maintain unity.
Despite significant global changes and numerous transitions in the Oval Office over time, it was the sons of those two Kurdish leaders who recently met again under the shadow of US mediation. Although the current situation is not a civil war, concerns are growing that recent security incidents and a lack of dialogue could escalate into full-scale conflict.
Read about the intergenerational tensions between the KDP and PUK leadership under a new crop of Barzani and Talabani sons, respectively.
9. May 2023 17:03
Kurdistan Region seeks additional funding for public salaries
The Iraqi Council of Ministers has decided to send an additional 400 billion dinars to the Kurdistan Region, following an earlier transfer of the same amount, according to Fares Isa, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) representation in Baghdad.
Isa told NRT Kurdish that he expects the funds to be sent next weekend after administrative procedures are completed.
Earlier, the KRG Ministry of Finance informed NRT English that the initial 400 billion Iraqi dinars ($300 million) received from the Iraqi government are insufficient to cover public salaries, necessitating more funding to release the pay schedule.
Public salary delays and cuts have been an ongoing issue in Kurdistan for nearly a decade, and the announcement of pay dates for ministry, directorate, or municipality employees has become a highly publicized affair.
Hunar Jamal, spokesperson for the KRG Ministry of Finance and Economy, told NRT English that there remains a shortfall of 340 billion Iraqi dinars ($260 million) to be addressed. The monthly public salaries require 940 billion dinars ($688 million), including 200 billion dinars ($157 million) from inland revenue.
Jamal explained that the KRG used to receive monthly oil revenues amounting to 740 billion Iraqi dinars (around $525 million), but due to oil export halts lasting over 45 days, they haven't received any revenue from oil. Currently, only the initial tranche of 400 billion Iraqi dinars ($305 million) is available.
Jamal said that the KRG ministerial council will discuss solutions to the shortfall in their meetings this upcoming Sunday to find a resolution.
9. May 2023 16:41
KRG appoints Srwa Rasoul as Director General of Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC)
Srwa Rasul has been appointed as the new Director General of the KRG Interior Ministry's JCC, replacing Hussein Kalari.
Interior Minister Reber Ahmed congratulated Rasoul, emphasizing the KRG's commitment to empowering women and expressing pride in seeing more women assume leadership roles.
While there has been progress in women's representation in the Kurdistan Region, the number of women in political leadership positions remains low at both local and regional levels in Erbil.
Current data shows that only four out of 22 ministers are women, and just 48 of the 231 judges are female.
KRG officials and US oil companies discuss energy investments in Kurdistan Region
KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and acting Minister of Natural Resources Kamal Mohammad Salih met with directors from US oil and gas companies in Erbil to discuss potential energy investment opportunities in the Kurdistan Region.
The recent agreement between Erbil and Baghdad to resume oil exports was addressed during the meetings. However, the challenges surrounding the resumption of oil exports, primarily due to Ankara's concerns and conditions, were not discussed.
The visit, organized by the US Kurdistan Business Council, also included discussions on Erbil-Baghdad relations. The KRG's US representation described the meeting with the acting minister as productive, reiterating the KRG's commitment to its international oil company partners and investors.
The energy sector in the Kurdistan Region faces uncertainty as the International Court of Arbitration in Paris ruled in favor of Iraq. Though Erbil and Baghdad have reached a temporary agreement, International Oil Companies (IOCs) await further clarity on the federal oil and gas law.
9. May 2023 16:22
KRG Finance Ministry: Payment shortfall threatens public salaries
The Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Ministry of Finance has informed NRT English that the 400 billion Iraqi dinars ($300 million) received from the Iraqi government are insufficient to cover public salaries, necessitating additional funding to release the pay schedule. In Kurdistan, the release of pay dates for ministry, directorate, or municipality employees has been a highly publicized affair since salaries began facing cuts or delays nearly a decade ago.
Hunar Jamal, spokesperson for the KRG Ministry of Finance and Economy, told NRT English that there remains a shortfall of 340 billion Iraqi dinars ($260 million) to be addressed. The monthly public salaries require 940 billion dinars ($688 million), which includes 200 billion dinars ($157 million) from internal revenue.
“We used to receive monthly oil revenues to the tune of 740 billion Iraqi Dinars (around $525 million), but due to oil export halts that have lasted for over 45 days now, we haven't received any revenue from oil. As of now, we only have the 400 billion Iraqi Dinars ($305 million) availible,” says Jamal.
As for solutions to the shortfall, Jamal stated that the issue would be discussed during the KRG ministerial council meetings this upcoming Sunday to find a resolution.
Stay tuned for more updates on this developing story.
9. May 2023 16:20
Full statement from KRG on meeting between acting Minister of Natural Resources Kamal Muhammed and international oil and gas company executives:
Kamal Muhammed Salih, acting Minister of Natural Resources, welcomed Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the United States, David Tafuri, head of the US-Kurdistan Business Association, and a large delegation of US companies, consisting of international oil and gas company executives.
In their meeting, the acting Minister of Natural Resources emphasized the importance of the agreement between the KRG and the Iraqi government on export of oil and gas and its potential benefits until the adoption of a federal oil and gas law.
During the meeting, the head of the US-Kurdistan Business Association highlighted the goals of the visit which is to organizing talks between the companies and KRG officials in the fields of trade and investment, particularly in the oil and gas sector. He also expressed his willingness to support the oil and gas sector in the Kurdistan Region and hoped that major facilitation would be provided for their major companies to invest in the oil and gas fields in the region.
In the same meeting, the acting Minister of Natural Resources also responded to the questions of the company executives and presented his ministry's readiness to assist in investment in the Kurdistan Region.
Ali Siyasi, a prominent political activist accused of harboring a murderer in his home, was granted bail today by the Erbil Court of Investigation. NRT Kurdish reporter Rizgar Kochar stood outside the Erbil Arrest and Transportation Police Department, surrounded by Siyasi's family and friends, as Siyasi emerged from the facility, declaring that he "will remain free until the investigation is concluded."
On April 25, the Erbil Asayish Directorate confirmed Siyasi's arrest, accusing him of harboring the murder suspect. Siyasi is known for his work on genocide and Anfal. The incident has sparked a public outcry, as many believe his arrest was motivated by his activism and views.
The Asayish Directorate released a statement and video confession, claiming that the suspect behind the murder of Kawa Baziani, a political, social, and military figure, was found in Siyasi's home in Erbil's Rasti neighborhood. The Sulaymaniyah Investigation Court issued an arrest warrant under Article 406 of the Iraqi Penal Code against Baban Ibrahim Habib Qasim, charging him with murder.
The statement also noted that after obtaining approval from the Erbil Security Investigation Judge, the suspect was arrested at Siyasi's home, which led to Siyasi's arrest for harboring the suspect.
On April 20, Kawa Baziani, a prominent figure in politics, society, and the military, was shot. Local media reports suggest that the perpetrator blamed Baziani for his father's death in 1985.
9. May 2023 14:13
Just in: Kurdistan Regional Government's Ministry of Finance announces that the Iraqi government has transferred 400 billion Iraqi dinars ($305 million) to the KRG's bank account.
A female primary school teacher in Erbil alleges that she was physically assaulted by three fellow teachers due to her refusal to disclose exam questions to their children, who also attend the same school.
During a press conference, Maryam Hassan, an English teacher at Rawshan Primary School in Erbil's Setaqan neighborhood, reported being physically assaulted by three fellow teachers with a punch and a steel rule, causing her hands to bleed.
She claims she denied providing exam questions to her colleagues' children and did not award them full marks. When she submitted their marks to her supervisor, they became angry and attacked her.
Displaying bloodstains on her clothing and a blood-soaked tissue, she vehemently declared her intention to sue the two teachers. She also stated that one of her fingers was injured and required stitches. Moreover, she alleged that the teachers threatened her with death if she proceeded with the press conference.
She also mentioned that the school principal deducted money from her salary without consent to purchase items for school staff. Despite her repeated transfer requests to a different school, the principal refused and engaged in psychological warfare against her.
Alan Hama Saeed, the Minister of Education for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), promptly appointed the Director General of Education in Erbil to investigate the incident. The ministry tells NRT Kurdish that the investigation will 'thoroughly examine the matter'.
9. May 2023 13:04
The PUK has reiterated its conditions for holding the Kurdistan parliamentary elections this year, which rely on the Iraqi register of voters and amending Kurdistan's electoral law.
The election, initially delayed for one year, is now scheduled for November 18, according to an announcement by Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani. However, the tense political environment has generated doubt and distrust.
Today in Sulaymaniyah, Rizgar Haji Hama, a member of PUK’s Political Bureau and Head of PUK’s Election Office, held a press conference in which he stated that many political parties are dissatisfied with the electoral law. He pointed out that the law is outdated and has numerous issues related to voter rights and seat allocation, present in all previous elections held under this law.
Call for multi-constituency
Rizgar Haji Hama mentioned that one of the problems with the current electoral law is that the Kurdistan Region is treated as a single electoral constituency. He stated that the PUK is advocating for amending the law to introduce a multi-constituency system and proportionally spread minority seats across the four provinces.
Haji Hama argues that the current single constituency system does not ensure fair representation in the distribution of parliamentary seats.
Currently, Sulaymaniyah and Halabja combined have 37 members in the Kurdistan Parliament, while Erbil has 44 members and Duhok has 30 members. However, under a multi-constituency system, Haji Hama estimates that Sulaimani and Halabja combined would have 45 members, while Erbil would have 39 members and Duhok would have 27 members.
There are pros and cons to each voting system. For example, the current full-fat proportional representation system, used in places like the Netherlands and Switzerland, ensures that each vote has equal value, regardless of location. This system leads to results that closely resemble the votes cast, but it can result in areas with lower turnout having reduced representation in the parliament.
On the flipside, the multi-constituency system proposed by the PUK, which is similar to the voting system in the United States or the United Kingdom (though with much bigger constituencies than other of those countries; the UK has one MP per constituency), guarantees each region a certain number of seats, regardless of turnout. This ensures equitable representation based on population, but it can lead to some votes being worth more than others and may result in disproportionate results compared to actual votes cast.
According to Haji Hama, the population statistics for the Kurdistan Region, based on the Ministry of Planning, are as follows:
Erbil: 2,254,422 people
SulaymaniyahandHalabja: 2,268,000 people
Duhok: 1,648,611 people
Meanwhile, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Planning, the population figures are different:
Erbil: 2,055,000 people
Sulaymaniyah: 2,396,000 people
Duhok: 1,432,000 people
It is rather odd that Kurdistan's homebrew electoral roll has Duhok and Erbil (KDP areas) with higher populations than the Iraqi register but Sulaymaniyah and Halabja (PUK-held areas) as lower than the official Iraqi tally.
According to these stats, the population of Erbil is up by 198,000 people, Duhok by 216,000 registered individuals, while Sulaimani and Halabja have 128,156 cases of missing people to account for somehow.
Minority quota seats
Haji Hama points out that the number of seats reserved for minorities in the Kurdistan Region is much higher than in Iraq, where only two seats are allocated to minorities in the Iraqi parliament. In contrast, the Kurdistan Parliament currently allocates 11 seats to minorities.
He appears to make a rather odd claim that the 11 quota seats should be distributed among the four constituencies based not on the minority populations of each province but on the overall proportion of the Region's population. He's demanding four minority seats for Sulaymaniyah when Erbil and Duhok almost certainly have more residents who are from minority groups than Sulaymaniyah does.
Haji Hama rejects claims that PUK is using these demands as an excuse to prolong the election process. He clarified that PUK is prepared for the elections, but not under the current law due to significant issues that must
9. May 2023 11:59
Following yesterday's PM-DPM meeting, the opposition New Generation Movement (NGM) seems to be more optimistic about the upcoming elections scheduled for November.
The NGM aims to capitalize on the existing tensions between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in order to secure more votes.
Here is what NGM leader Shaswar Abduwahid said on the elections following yesterday's meeting:
Baghdad calls on international community to help recover antiquities
Baghdad says that it is looking forward to the cooperation of the international community to recover "every piece" of antiquities illegally taken out of Iraq.
This follows the UK's handover of more than 6,000 archaeological pieces to the Iraqi government in London on Friday. The pieces had been on loan to the British Museum for research purposes since 1923.
The Iraqi foreign ministry hopes that the nearly century-long period spent by the thousands of pieces in the UK served scientific research.
NRT English has reached out to the British Museum for comment.
The ministry added that Baghdad "looks forward to the cooperation of all countries, institutions, and international organizations with Iraqi efforts to recover every piece of antiquities illegally taken out of Iraq, and to stop the illegal trade in them."
It said Baghdad will try its best to restore "the heritage that was looted and taken out of the country at different times."
In 2021, the US handed over 17,000 archaeological artifacts in the largest-ever repatriation of looted Iraqi antiquities.
In the aftermath of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, a significant number of antiquities were stolen, not only from institutions like the Iraq National Museum but also due to unlawful digging at numerous archaeological locations across the nation. Moreover, in 2014, the Islamic State (IS) group destroyed and looted many artifacts.
Iraq, often referred to as the cradle of civilization, boasts a rich archaeological heritage that dates back thousands of years. Situated in the fertile crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, this land was home to some of the world's earliest and most advanced civilizations, such as the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians.
Iraq's archaeological heritage includes the famous city of Ur, the royal tombs of Nimrud, and the ancient city of Babylon, which houses the remains of the legendary Hanging Gardens.
9. May 2023 11:51
Following yesterday's meeting between the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the US Ambassador to Iraq shared the following statement:
After all the commotion yesterday, today is off to a relatively quiet start. We'll bring you all the latest as it unfolds. Additionally, we'll do our best to uncover what Qubad Talabani and Masrour Barzani had for lunch.
Last night, the KRG finance minister issued an ominous-sounding plea concerning the Kurdistan Region's severe cash flow problems and inability to service public sector payroll after oil exports were cut in March:
The suspension of oil exports has created serious problems for employee salaries, and we hope that the Iraqi government will fulfill its promises to provide the necessary funds for these salaries.
Awat Janab Nuri
In other news, Baghdad has called on international community to help recover antiquities
Baghdad states that it's looking forward to the cooperation of the international community to recover "every piece" of antiquities illegally taken out of Iraq.
This comes after the UK handed over more than 6,000 archaeological pieces to the Iraqi government in London on Friday. The items had been on loan to the British Museum for research purposes since 1923.