Time for Change in Iraq

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

It’s nearly a year since the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL) seized control of Mosul. Almost as significantly, it is also roughly one year since the price of crude oil began its latest descent, severely limiting Iraq’s ability to fund its defence and development.

Many expect these two phenomena to be with us for some time, and together they constitute a major crisis for the state of Iraq.

In the context of the misery being inflicted by IS, to say that Iraq is wasting a crisis may seem insensitive or crass, but history shows that many enduring structural reforms were initiated in times of crisis.

Britain’s fight for survival in the First and Second World Wars, for example, led to huge increases in the percentage of GDP that was taken in taxes, and these increases were not reversed once the wars were over. Whether that shift was for the better can be debated, but the point is that it was conceived in crisis, perceived as necessary, and retained as a new societal norm.

Similarly, as Iraq fights for its existence, it becomes ever more necessary to change some of its norms, and root out the practices and cultures that hold it back.

While it’s true that some progress has been made under Prime Minister al-Abadi, corruption, bureaucracy, inefficient banking and a bloated and uncoordinated public sector all remain significant problems in Iraq.

These problems were highlighted earlier this week in front of a full house at the Iraq Britain Business Council’s (IBBC) Spring Conference in London, but to dwell this would be to misrepresent the tone of the event; there was consensus that Iraq has the potential to succeed, militarily and commercially, and that with international support it will become a peaceful and prosperous society.

All the more reason, then, for politicians and civil servants to re-focus their efforts on eliminating graft, red tape and waste.

(Flag image via Shutterstock)

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