Iraq is currently witnessing a huge discrepancy between the performance of the political class and the security, social and economic pressures experienced by the people.
Despite its apparent failure in dealing with the security, economic and social issues that have placed Iraq at the top of the list of “failed states,” the political class decided to reward itself with unprecedented privileges, expressing extreme indifference toward the voters.
During the past few years, the legislative, executive and independent institutions issued decrees that granted their members very high salaries and huge additional privileges. Lawmakers earn an estimated $22,500 each month in salary and allowances for housing and security. In contrast, a mid-level government employee makes around $600 a month.
While these extensive privileges were supposed to serve as motivation for the lawmakers to work harder, failure continues to plague the Iraqi parliament, which seems unable to hold frequent meetings because of the chronic absence of more than half of its members.
The fact is that Iraq is a rentier country where the political elite oversees the distribution of oil revenues in a way that serves its interests. An equitable relationship between taxation and representation does not exist in rentier states, where the ruling elite practically turn into owners that distribute the wealth as it sees fit, while the people become dependent on donations from the rulers.
Such a relationship had explicitly existed under the regime of former President Saddam Hussein. The official media outlets of the time used to label any financial or material grant given by the government to the citizens as a “gift from the leadership.”
Such rhetoric no longer exists today, but the investment of the easy money from oil proceeds still serves the goals of political forces. The political conflict is basically about each group seeking to control a greater share of the oil revenues.