Iraq: Developing More Capacity to Manage Public Funds
Even amid conflict and fluctuations in oil prices, as home to the world’s third-largest oil reserves, Iraq has the sort of wealth from natural resources that makes it possible for its government to invest in the country’s infrastructure.
Iraq spent more than US$51 billion on public procurement in 2014, well over 20% of the country’s GDP. Harnessing this revenue to develop the economy, however, requires an efficient system of government contracting.
Public procurement in Iraq has been effected by decades of sanctions, war, and instability—conditions that have created a system characterized by inefficiency, corruption, and delays. Procurement is a bottleneck that prevents budgetary expenditure; according to the World Bank’s 2014 Public Investment Management Report, often the process is stuck at 50%–60% of its capacity.
Another assessment in 2012 showed widespread corruption in public contracting weakening investors’ perceptions of doing business in Iraq, and thus hurting its prospects of increased foreign investment. Simply put, Iraq’s outdated procurement system, combined with its post-conflict low absorptive capacity, is significantly increasing the cost of public investment and also diminishing its returns.
The Bank’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) procurement team has worked with the Government of Iraq to address this. The Bank’s regional public procurement strategy promotes building capacity in a way that moves beyond small-scale, short-term training, towards comprehensive programs that look for more sustainable solutions.
In Iraq, the Bank is trying to help the country build a future generation of civil servants with the skills needed to manage procurement with efficiency and integrity.