Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has pledged to halve his salary in a move that appears aimed at placating frustrations over mounting inequality and poor basic services, as protests rage around the Middle East.
Maliki made the promise in a statement released late on Friday, as members of parliament debate the federal budget, and after religious leaders warned Iraq was not immune to protests spreading across the region simply because it is a democracy.
“I will reduce my salary by 50 percent as president of the cabinet and return it to the state treasury starting from this month,” he said.
Maliki said the move was intended to “reduce the differences between the salaries of employees of state institutions, and to help reduce differences in all of society.”
He has yet to publicly release his official salary, but he is believed to receive around US$350,000 a year. His statement came as clerics across the country warned that Iraqi leaders had to do more to fight corruption and promote social justice to avert Tunisia or Egypt-style uprisings.
“All governments, even democracies, must study the main reasons that have led to this public anger against their regimes, which started in Tunisia,” said Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai during Friday prayers in Karbala.
“A lot has changed in Iraq ... but there is no social justice,” Karbalai said. “The political blocs in Iraq must give priority to public issues over private interests.”
Maliki also pointedly noted in his statement that his salary cut came as lawmakers debated a nearly US$80 billion spending program that the Cabinet approved on Dec. 1, but has yet to be finalized.