ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Not long after stepping into his new role as regional president, Nechirvan Barzani gave a farewell speech on Saturday night as outgoing prime minister of the Kurdistan Region, thanking his former constituency and cabinet for how they faced serious difficulties in recent years.
The comments came during a meeting with the ministers of the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) last term, days before the new prime minister-designate is expected to announce his proposed cabinet for the next one.
Barzani thanked all the ministers for their teamwork and praised incumbent Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani for his programs of reform and efforts to develop regional government institutions.
Since the beginning of 2014, he said, his cabinet faced a dire situation due to major cuts to the Kurdistan Region’s share of the national budget from Baghdad, the emergence of and fight against the Islamic State, the flow of two million displaced people and refugees to the autonomous region, and the dramatic drop of oil prices internationally, all of which resulted in a critical financial crisis.
President Barzani stressed two factors that led the Kurdistan Region to overcome the trying times.
“First, the understanding and patience of people for the situation and, second, the teamwork of the ministers,” he said. “Without the understanding of people and public employees of the Kurdistan Region, it would’ve been impossible to overcome the crisis this way.”
Barzani noted that the most difficult decision of the cabinet and of his political career were hugely unpopular austerity measures which the KRG announced in Feb. 2016 to overcome the drastic economic shortfalls. The policy substantially decreased the salaries of public employees, often halving money households took in, with a promise to reimburse them in the future. The measures led to mass protests in multiple cities and ended in March 2019.
The official also repeated his common promise that the Kurdistan Region is keen to resolve longstanding disputes with the federal government of Iraq through dialogue.
“What’s important today is that Baghdad should recognize that the Kurdistan Region is a federal region of Iraq, as it is designated in the constitution, and [Iraq's] treatment of the Kurdistan Region should be on that basis,” Barzani said, adding that, should such mutual understanding be reached, issues between Erbil and Baghdad can be addressed.
He finished by promising that “a bright future is ahead of the people of the Kurdistan Region,” and highlighted his support, as its new president, for the upcoming KRG cabinet.
Prime Minister-designate Masrour Barzani, in the process of taking the helm of the KRG, is expected to submit his new list of ministers before the deadline of July 12.
Editing by John J. Catherine