Basra "Takes Further Steps Toward Independence"

Some estimates suggest that Basra, rich in oil and the home of a busy sea port, provides the whole country with between 85 and 90 percent of its oil income. But at the same time it suffers from poor infrastructure and high rates of poverty – estimated at around 30 percent - and unemployment.

Previous attempts to make Basra a region were not particularly welcome in political circles – doubtless the spectre of ongoing conflict over rights to the oil and the harbour makes this an unpopular project in Baghdad. But Abdul-Latif really believes the time is now right. He believes that locals in the Shiite Muslim majority province are tired of political quotas and of seeing all their wealth go to politicians.

Supporters of the idea believe that Basra will get a bigger share of the federal budget as a region and that government performance on crucial issues will be more closely monitored by local interests.

And indeed it does seem as though the campaign to create a Basra region has more impetus than ever. There is all kinds of social networking going on, campaigning on satellite television and there has even been a new flag designed for the Basra region-to-be.

In fact popular sentiment to try and make Basra a region seems to be so strong that it necessitated visits by both the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, and the country's President, Fouad Masoum, recently. Both senior politicians vowed to try harder to transfer more power to local government and to give them more control over their own matters. Masoum told locals he'd lived in Basra for three years and was familiar with the problems that the province had.

As a prime mover behind the drive to regionalise Basra, Abdul Latif questioned those promises. They responded as a result of the growing power and popularity of this project and they only spoke about decentralizing some state business, Abdul Latif told NIQASH.

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