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Iraqi Kurds Doubt Baghdad Can Pay Public Salaries

The government of Iraq's Kurdish region has challenged Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to deliver on an offer to pay 400,000 public workers' salaries.

Abadi said on state television this week that he was prepared to cover the Kurdistan regional government's payroll as long as it stopped exporting oil independently.

While taking up the offer on February 17, Kurdish officials questioned whether Baghdad is serious.

The Kurdish government has been hit by plummeting oil revenues and has been unable to pay its workers' salaries on time, but officials point out that Baghdad's budget has also been ravished by falling oil revenues, and it too may have trouble making the payments.

By one estimate, Baghdad is not making enough from oil exports to cover its own employees' salaries.

The Kurdish region needs 890 billion Iraqi dinars ($760 million) a month to pay salaries.

Baghdad and Irbil have been at odds for years over sharing oil revenue.

Baghdad's move is aimed at stopping the Kurds' recent decision to bypass the central government and export oil through a pipeline to Turkey.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP