The parliament of the Kurdistan Region. File photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan Region’s parliament approved a controversial article in a reform bill amending the KRG’s salary and pension systems on Wednesday.
The bill introduces reforms to the salaries of public employees and pensioners, including cleaning the list of beneficiaries, preventing duplicate benefits and double-salary holders, and institutionalizing the pension program.
An article addressing high ranking pensioners, termed “special ranks,” drew the most debate, Rudaw’s Sangar Abdulrahman reported from the parliament. The parliamentary session took place behind closed doors.
“Special ranks” includes retired ministers, deputy ministers, consultants, general directors, and some Peshmerga who were awarded the position in return for their service to the Kurdish Freedom Movement before the formation of the KRG.
Under the old rules, they retired with 80 percent of their salary without any conditions. The new bill introduced new requirements. Pensions will now be based on their qualifications, years of service, and age, among other criteria.
“If this project is implemented, only deserving people will benefit from salaries, pensions, and benefits, and this will directly affect the welfare of the civil servants,” Amanj Rahim, secretary of the KRG’s Council of Ministers, had previously told Rudaw.
Bahzad Zebari, head of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) faction, told Rudaw that, “Most of MPs demanded a minimum pension of 400,000 dinars [monthly, $338] and the government said ‘Whenever the financial condition of the government improves, we will make the minimum pension 400,000 dinars.’”
“According to the new bill, pensions will normally be between 25 and 60 percent and exceptionally 70 percent of the employee’s last salary,” he added.
Persons within the “special ranks,” under the age of 50, and with fewer than 15 years of service will not be eligible for a pension.
The article and two others were approved. Twenty articles remain to be debated.
Under the proposed amendments, the KRG could save about a quarter of its current salary costs, 100 – 120 billion dinars ($85-100 million).
There are 1.249 million civil servants in the Kurdistan Region. Prior to the economic crisis, the KRG spent about 850 billion dinars on salaries. After introducing austerity measures, the salary budget was reduced to 450 billion dinars as state employees were given just a fraction of their salary.
Parliament will convene again on Thursday to continue debate on the rest of the reform bill. If the bill is approved, officials will be given 90 days to implement the reforms.
The draft bill was approved by KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani before being introduced to the parliament.