Iraq: Salaries Reform Backfires On Government

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-‘Abadi appeared to have turned a corner in September when he responded to widespread protests by announcing a series of reforms, yet the backlash against his shake-up of public sector salaries marks a major setback. From the first “batch of reforms” issued on 9 September, which was followed by a parliamentary vote unanimously endorsing his initial program two days later, the specific measures were largely austerity measures, which are rarely popular anywhere.

October saw cuts to public sector salaries, driving protests from middle class civil servants against the government. The popular response was one of strong rejection, and those hardest hit such as teachers and doctors protested not just in Baghdad but in southern provinces as well. Evening news coverage from Al-Sumaria, a mainstream and widely watched television station, included some protesters talking about how, “God forbid,” state employees might turn to bribes to get by, and education could suffer as teachers take on side work to pay the bills.


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