Six Years to Build a Short Road: Corruption and Construction in Karbala
Despite the city’s tourism wealth, Karbala city officials say they don’t have enough money to complete important infrastructure projects, like roads and sewage systems. But critics say there are other reasons: such as corruption, the contracting of non-existent companies to do the jobs and lax contracting procedures.
Construction of a road next to Imad al-Moussawi’s house in Karbala started six years ago. But it still isn’t finished. “It’s not yet fully paved,” al-Moussawi says. “Parts were paved but other parts were not. The same thing happened with the roundabout in the middle of this road. It’s just been fenced off with iron bars and the centre has become a dumping ground for all kinds of rubbish.”
Al-Moussawi lives in the working class neighbourhood of Ghadeer. But this is not the only project in the relatively prosperous town of Karbala that remains uncompleted. A wide number of projects in various areas – roads, bridges, sewages systems – are unfinished. “We see these unfinished projects all around us and we worry about the money that is being spent on these failed projects,” al-Moussawi told NIQASH. “If that money had been spent to help hungry, poor people it would be much better.”
Apparently a lot of the projects are not being finished because the city is running out of money – that is despite it being a prosperous metropolis which, as the site of some of the most important Shiite Muslim shrines in the region, draws millions of tourists every year. The delays in construction and other projects have a major impact on the city’s all-important service sector.
“Karbala won’t be able to sign any new contracts for new services or construction projects until 2016,” Hussein Shadhan, a member of the provincial council’s religious tourism committee, said. “All of the current year’s budget will be used to finalize projects entered into previously.”
In 2012, Karbala received around IQD 200 billion (around US$167 million) from the national budget and in 2013, the city got IQD237 billion (around US$200 million). In 2014 Karbala expects to get about IQD300 billion (around US$350 million). The city also gets extra money from the government to cover expenses that it has around providing security and services to the millions of visitors it receives from Iraq and the region during major religious occasions. For example the Iraqi government gave the city an extra IQD100 billion dinars (US$83 million) to cope with the Ashura festival.