Iraqi Kurdistan has been having financial problems for some time now, ever since conflicts between the government in the semi-independent region and the federal government in Baghdad began. Locals' purchasing power has fallen – in a country where many people are employed by the government, a financially unstable Iraqi Kurdish government hasn't always been able to pay its employees on time.
But the local market for all kinds of goods has been buoyed by the Iraqi Arabs here, who do get their salaries on time from the federal government.
One mobile phone store owner in central Sulaymaniyah, Shirwan Ali, says he is almost totally dependent on Iraqi Arabs for his business now. “Kurdish pockets are almost completely empty,” Ali told NIQASH. “In the past we used to sell phones on a hire purchase scheme with monthly payments. But we can't do that anymore. People are only getting their salaries every four months! So we are totally dependent on the Arabs.”
“The impact of the displaced Arab citizens on Kurdistan is double edged,” says Kurdish MP and economist Izzat Saber, who heads the local Parliament's Committee on Finance and Economics. “If they spent all of their money here, and the region didn't have to take any responsibility for them, then yes, their presence is an asset to Kurdistan. But there is fear everywhere here – including in Sulaymaniyah – that the Arabs will become property owners and the Kurds will only be their tenants.”