By Dr Amer K. Hirmis.
Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Public sector investment in Iraq - What strategic priorities for the new Prime Minister?
Iraq is still in turmoil, four months since the Uprising, in October 2019. Meanwhile, Prime Minister (PM) Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned. Muhammad Tawfiq Allawi i has been appointed as PM-designate.
Mr. Allawi has already been rejected by the Uprising, as an affiliate to the failed post-2003 ethno-sectarian political system. Political uncertainty thus continues, and with it investment decisions in the public and private sectors.
Whoever the new PM may end up to be, two key challenges will face him; political and economic.
On the political front, the new PM will need to prove, by action, that he has the will and determination to serve the Iraqi people, rather than bend to ethno-sectarian interests that have shaped politics and the economy post-2003. A system that normalised pervasive corruption, sidelined the rule of law, freedom of thought and expression, peaceful gathering and the right to protest. A system that, inter alia, stalled economic development, leading to high unemployment, and marginalised, if not atomised, millions of Iraqis living in poverty.
On the economic front, the challenges are just as great as the political ones. The new PM will have only the near-term to rise to these challenges – possibly a major review of the current ‘Government Programme,’ the ‘Construction Council’ bill, and various economic “road maps” laid out by the current ‘Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee’ (PMAC), e.g. “vision 2030”, as well as comprehensive institutional reforms. He will need to draw together all these, and more, and produce a short-term realistic, rational and workable economic programme, on which more below.
Simply put, the Uprising anticipates economic reforms that create new jobs, use oil revenues for investment in productive sectors of the economy, across the country and substantially reduces the size of government employment, of which the pay roll easily absorbs over 50 percent of the national budget.
The Uprising also demands early general elections, ushering a process of defragmentation of the allegedly corrupt institutions, and observing good governance and the rule of law, amongst other reforms.
Dr Amer K. Hirmis is Principal at UK-based consultancy CBS Ltd. (2008-present). In October 2009, Amer began a 20-months assignment as Senior Development Planning Advisor to the Ministry of Planning in Iraq (funded under the DANIDA programme for ‘peace and reconstruction’ in Iraq). The posts Amer has assumed include Chief Economist and Head of Policy at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (1992-5), Economic Advisor to UK South West Regional Development Agency (1996-8) and Associate Director and then Head of Consulting and Research (Middle East) at the global firm DTZ (1998 to 2007).
Dr Amer K Hirmis is the author of ‘The Economics of Iraq – ancient past to distant future’