Iraq to slash politicians’ salaries amid protests

Iraq will save at least $19 mln after the measure


Iraq's government will next week submit a bill to slash ministers' and lawmakers' salaries, a top official said Wednesday, after nationwide protests against corruption and poor basic services.

The new legislation will result in savings of at least $19 million annually, and will see Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's salary cut by nearly two-thirds, cabinet secretary general Ali al-Alaak told AFP.

"We will submit to the council of ministers next week ... a good substantial reduction reached, in some cases more than 50 percent, of the present salaries," Alaak, 57, said in an interview.

"We are trying to take advantage of the good will we have right now ... from the political parties, they are all now in the mood of accepting that reduction so we (will) try to push that draft as soon as possible."

If approved by the cabinet, it will need to be passed by Iraq's parliament.

The projected annual savings do not take into account reduced pensions payments that are also a feature of the upcoming bill.

The new legislation will reduce Maliki's own salary to 13 million Iraqi dinars ($10,100) per month, from 35 million dinars now, while ministers and MPs will receive eight million dinars per month, down from their present salaries of 13 million dinars.

The Iraqi prime minister had earlier this month pledged to halve his salary. Along with 325 MPs, Iraq also has 42 ministers and ministers of state.

Alaak said the most important provisions of the bill were likely the reduction in pension payments -- because Iraq's MPs and ministers receive pensions based on their final salaries, the reduction in pay means lower payouts for former politicians.

In addition, the bill lowers the percentage of the final salary paid out to retired MPs and ministers.

While previously, all ex-politicians received 80 percent of their final salary, the new law states that anyone who serves less than five years will receive 50 percent, and those who serve more than that time will receive 80 percent.

In late 2009, MPs passed legislation giving themselves a monthly budget of around $25,500 dollars, including a monthly salary and allowances for up to 30 staff, primarily security.

3 protesters killed

Three people were killed and dozens wounded in the southern Iraqi city of Kut on Wednesday in clashes between security forces and protesters demanding better basic services, police and hospital sources said.

Protesters calling for the removal of corrupt officials and an improvement in basic services threw bricks and stones at Iraqi security forces and took over the city's provincial and government buildings, the sources said.

"The toll from the violent actions of the demonstrations is three protesters killed and about 30 wounded, including 15 policemen from the facilities protection service," a police source in Kut said.

A teenager was killed Wednesday when private security guards opened fire on protesters in south Iraq who tried to storm government offices and set fire to them, police and medical officials said.

The protest, which also left 27 people wounded, was the country's most violent since massive uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in recent weeks led to the resignation of each country's respective dictator.

More than 2,000 demonstrators had gathered in the centre of Kut, capital of Wasit province south of Baghdad, to demand provincial governor Latif Hamad al-Tarfa resign over poor basic services like electricity and water.

The demonstration began at around 9:00 am (0600 GMT), eventually leading to angry Iraqis setting fire to two buildings and several nearby caravans.

"We have received one dead body and are treating 27 wounded," said Majid Mohammed Hassan from Kut hospital's administrative unit. Hassan said the fatality had been a 16-year-old boy who suffered a bullet to the chest.

Protesters had initially attempted to break in to the provincial council's offices, which had emptied of staff fearful of the demonstrations, but police and soldiers fired into the air, compelling the crowd to pull back.

Demonstrators then set fire to caravans that usually house the Iraqi private guards charged with securing the Wasit headquarters compound.

The guards, who were stationed on the roof of the provincial administrative office, within the same compound, fired into the air in a bid to again disperse the demonstrators.

At that point, the crowd of demonstrators stormed the administrative building, spurring the guards to fire directly into the crowd, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

"Those were private guards, only they fired at the protesters. They were outside the law," police Brigadier General Hussein Jassim told AFP. "Our forces only fired into the air."

Major Mohammed Saleh, the top police intelligence officer in Kut, said: "Measures will be taken against the private guards but after the situation has calmed down."

The protesters then set fire to the administrative building, and proceeded to the governor's official residence nearby, which was also set alight.

Earlier, the demonstrators had chanted for Tarfa to resign, and held up placards that sarcastically said, "To all citizens: Electricity is only for officials", a reference to Iraq's dramatic shortfall in power provision.

"I demand that the governor resign," said 34-year-old Ahmed Saadun.

"He has failed in his performance -- he has not provided any services, we need services."

Those were private guards, only they fired at the protesters. They were outside the law

Hussein Jassim, police Brigadier General