A worker adjusts the valve of an oil pipe at Khurmala oilfield on the outskirts of the city of Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region December 4, 2013. (REUTERS/Stringer)
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Rizgar pulled one of his wife's bracelets from his pocket and laid it on a gold merchant's counter in Iraq's Kurdistan region over the weekend, reluctantly selling it to cover his bills.The Electricity Ministry in Kurdistan had not paid Rizgar for two months because the Baghdad government has withheld funds to punish the Kurds for trying to export oil via a new pipeline.The region says it will pay its own way in March, but the financial squeeze shows how reliant Kurdistan remains on Baghdad for a slice of the OPEC producer's multibillion dollar budget, so long as it cannot export oil in large volumes itself.More than a fifth of Kurdistan's 5 million people are on a government payroll that has swollen to 840 billion dinars ($722 million) a month – 70 percent of public spending in 2013 .Formally, Baghdad is supposed to give Kurdistan 17 percent of the national budget after sovereign expenses, flown in cash from the central bank to Irbil, though how much is actually paid is disputed.
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