Tigray interim admin seeks five billion birr lifeline amidst salary crisis

The Tigray interim administration has officially sought a five-billion-birr loan from the federal government, citing significant budget deficits that have prevented the payment of civil servant salaries, with primary and secondary school teachers being notably affected.

During an interview with Addis Standard, Mihret Beyene, the Head of the Finance and Resource Mobilization Bureau of Tigray, emphasized the federal government’s oversight in distributing the region’s budget as stipulated by the Pretoria Peace Agreement.

In a recent media briefing, Mihret noted that there was a substantial shortfall in the budget for the 2022/2023 fiscal year, which amounted to 2.6 billion birr. This shortfall has led to a monthly deficit of 300 million birr that was allocated for the salaries of public servants.

“Due to this financial shortfall, the interim administration has been compelled to seek a loan of five billion birr,” Mihret stated.

The Tigray region has been contending with a prolonged delay in the disbursement of public servant salaries for 17 months, a situation instigated by the war that commenced in November 2020 between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). This persistent economic challenge has led to a cessation of the allocation of budget subsidies to the region.

Public servants from multiple sectors in Tigray have been vociferously demanding their overdue remuneration. This week, 33 government school teachers halted their teaching responsibilities to protest the interim administration’s inability to provide their salaries. The extended lack of income has compromised their ability to meet financial obligations such as loan repayments and housing costs, placing them in an increasingly unstable economic position.

A teacher from Mekelle, the capital city of Tigray, has brought attention to the critical situation confronting educators, pointing out that numerous pleas for back pay have resulted in mere promises without any substantive settlement. He says this incapacity to satisfy their financial responsibilities presents a considerable jeopardy to their subsistence, impacting teachers’ ability to uphold their educational roles.

The protest escalated to the point where educators ceased teaching, which led Kiros Guesh, the Head of the Education Bureau in the Tigray interim administration, along with Mihret Beyene, to publicly confront the matter.

Mihret disclosed the budget allocated to date remains unchanged from the pre-war period in the Tigray region. “The federal government continues to disburse an equivalent sum as it did prior to 2020, maintaining this level consistently throughout the year, whereas allocations to other regional states have seen an increase.”

 “Previously, our expenditure on salaries amounted to 900 million birr, but this figure has escalated to 1.2 billion birr, thereby revealing a certain shortfall,” she further elaborated.

According to Mihret, Tigray region used to finance 35% of its budget through internal revenue streams, a practice which has now ceased. She underscored that the call for salary disbursements is not limited to teachers but includes all government personnel.

In a recent communiqué, the Tigray Teachers Association articulated their discontent with the interim administration’s inability to respond to their sustained requests over the course of 17 months. This has led to the contemplation of a peaceful demonstration on 24 January, 2024, should an expedient and agreeable solution fail to emerge.

For the moment, however, the association has decided that educators are to recommence their instructional responsibilities to facilitate the resumption of educational activities that have been interrupted.

Kiros, the head of the education bureau, has called upon teachers to return to their classrooms, highlighting the interim government’s understanding of their concerns and its persistent efforts to engage with the federal government for a solution.

He also stressed the critical need to restore the educational process and requested continued patience while measures are taken to address the current financial challenges.

“Salary disbursement is a unified request from the entirety of the government workforce,” Mihret reiterated, emphasizing the widespread impact of the matter that affects the sustenance of numerous individuals in the Tigray region.

Source: Addis Standard

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