Absolutely. There is obviously a problem in Iraq in that the KRG has something like 60% public sector employment and in the rest of Iraq it is a similar story. This is clearly a massive drain on public finances. It’s also problematic because the public sector does not create wealth; therefore the government is solely reliant on oil sales.
The government does not generate sufficient tax revenue and does not levy corporate tax on businesses because they never submit correct figures, so this is a problem with Iraq’s economy.
One of the most serious problems is that you can’t fire public servants; you can only transfer them to other areas and pass them on. We all know that people would not be very productive if they knew their job was guaranteed. There has to be an element of fear that if you don’t hit targets, produce, succeed, push for change or improve then you will lose your job and there’s no fear like that in the public sector. Therefore what we have is a hugely bloated, ineffective, inefficient public sector.
Another problem is the ministries. The Transport and Communications Ministry in federal Iraq has been rolling out fibre optics across all of Iraq in areas that are accessible. However they have been extremely slow and the quality of work has been terrible, in some cases ruining water pipes or electrical wires dug in the ground. This is mainly because the ministry itself uses their own staff to do the work rather than using private sector. They’re far less competent, driven or experienced. Ministries should avoid doing the work themselves and just do the planning and research - they should bring in the private sector to do the actual physical work.
RT: Yes I can think of one particularly controversial hospital project in Iraq. How have you found your return to Iraq, has it been hard moving on from your work in the UK?
No, not hard at all, I have enjoyed it here very much. I love being back and working in a very exciting and growing economy.
RT: Are you working with other diaspora Iraqis too now?
No, only one other Iraqi who has lived abroad. Some of us here are locals, one person is an expat like myself. One is American, another is European. We are a big mix, there are a few Jordanians as well.
RT: These issues you talk about, e.g. fostering a private sector culture, is that a continual problem or do you have optimism that things are changing slowly?
In my humble opinion things can change quite rapidly if the right decisions are made at the top. If the right action is taken regarding for example a cessation in over-hiring in public sector, allowing the flexibility to start firing incompetent staff, cutting red tape, land reform, providing cheap credit, banking regulation reforms, improving the civil courts and their efficiency and allowing them the ability to make quick decisions when it comes to business cases, then we would see a huge unprecedented boom in Iraq.