Efforts to Privatize Electricity face Resistance

By Salam Zidane for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

In a meeting held Feb. 21, Najaf’s provincial council followed in the footsteps of Dhi Qar, Muthanna, Wasit and Diwaniyah and voted against the privatization of the electricity sector in the province.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government insists on privatizing the distribution of electricity in all Iraqi regions, despite popular protests against this decision, which many believe harms the poor, who make up 30% of the country’s population.

On July 20, 2012, parliament voted on the privatization of electricity after the government failed to improve the situation despite spending $22 billion over the course of nine years attempting to fix the crisis. Iraq needs 30,000 megawatts, but citizens are only provided with 8,000 megawatts.

On Jan. 25, 2016, the Ministry of Electricity applied the privatization project in Zayouna in eastern Baghdad, in partnership with the local company al-Noor al-Thaqib. This year, it concluded agreements with local as well as foreign companies to implement the project nationwide.

Musab al-Moudarres, the spokesman for the Ministry of Electricity, told Al-Monitor, “As a result of residential slums scattered around the country, in which people steal electricity from each other, 65% of the produced energy was wasted. The majority of citizens refuse to pay electricity bills, which are now worth $2.7 million, enough to cover the salaries of the ministries’ employees for two years.”

He stressed, “The ministry has come to the conclusion that the electricity crisis will not be resolved if the situation remains the same, so it suggested the idea of privatizing the distribution of electricity, which aims to rationalize consumption and collect fees while ensuring around-the-clock electricity.” He added, “The project was a success in some areas in Baghdad and it contributed to rationalizing consumption by 30% and putting an end to waste by 100%.”

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