Workers and small business owners in Sulaimani, Erbil, Halabja and Duhok are struggling to make ends meet as the economic crisis continues.
“I swear to God, I have made only 5,000 dinars since the morning,” one man said from the streets of Sulaimani city, where he sells goods at the side of the road.
Daily labourers in the city are struggling to even find work.
“I came to work at 5 am in the morning. The sun has just risen. No one has come to hire me. I will wait until 9 or 10 am. If there is no one to hire me, I will be forced to go back home,” said Kamal Salim.
“Sometimes I am hired only twice a week. Sometimes I am never hired,” he added.
“I sat down in the shop for three hours and a half. I just sold dates for 4,000 dinars. Who can I feed with this money?” said a vendor in the city.
It is not only the employed who are suffering.
Widow Fatima Mohammed has not bought chicken for weeks. She lost her job a month ago.
“How are you supposed to survive when you don’t have a salary, when you do not have a shop, a car or a house? My life has been filled with hardship,” she said.
I have not been able to buy chicken for a month or two. I swear to God, I have not been able to afford to buy clothes for myself and my children. I wear second-hand clothes.
The Kurdistan Region’s economic woes have deepened in recent months amid ongoing budget disputes with Baghdad. Erbil relies on its share of federal funds to pay its civil servants.
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) civil servants went unpaid for much of 2020, and the government has been unable to pay its employees in full and on time for over five years.
The economic situation has worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw oil prices plummet and the ensuing devaluation of the dinar – forcing up the price of goods.