The Iraqi government headed by Haider al-Abadi strives to prepare development plans in cooperation with the Ministry of Planning to promote the deteriorating economic reality and the contribution of all actors in the process of development and reconstruction and employment of labor and increase non-oil revenues.
The Government’s directives confirm the importance of the political will to adopt the objectives of sustainable development and to develop a national vision for the strategy as well as effective partnership between development partners (the private sector, civil society, academics and international actors).
In implementation of the directions of Abadi, Minister of Planning Salman Jumaili said in a seminar organized by the Ministry of Planning in the Rafidain Center for Dialogue entitled (Ministry of Planning : Development and State Building): The next stage will witness a change in the development reality of Iraq.
Jumaili said that the Ministry of Planning has prepared a plan within the framework of the global agenda represented by the formation of the National Commission for Sustainable Development, pointing to the development of relations with all neighboring countries in a manner not seen before.
The plan is the outcome of a national action in which the efforts and inputs of all ministries and relevant authorities are integrated in the country, namely the development compass which guides the economic and social sectors. The idea of preparing a medium-term national development plan was due to the failures and problems encountered in the preparation of annual investment programs, especially to set a comprehensive medium-term and long-term development visions, and determine the priorities of the projects and its integration on the basis of the annual development approach.
Al-Jumaili assured the Iraqi people that the economic situation of the country is improving due to the fact that the allocation of revenues will feed the budget that adopts reconstruction and development after the liberation of the Iraqi territory completely from the desecration of terrorism.
Jumaili said that the investment prospects expected to enter Iraq are large from Arab and foreign companies and investors, revealing the completion of the Ministry of Planning for a number of strategies and long-term development plans.
Al-Jumaili said that the role of the Ministry of Planning is a key role due to the reality of the Rentier economic system in Iraq, despite its transformation from the totalitarian central system to the decentralized system of governance , which authorizes broad powers to the local governments, relying on its natural and human potential in various industrial , agriculture and tourist sectors and its ability to absorb a lot of projects.
During the symposium, which was attended by a group of experts, professors, specialists and religious men , the following points were highlighted:
• Iraq has friendly relations with all neighboring countries, which will reflect positively on the performance of the government and the situation of the economy, especially in the file of counter-terrorism and investment and international support in international forums and end the negative interventions, can be an important joint of the joints of national development and reconstruction.
• The Ministry of Planning has completed the five-year development plan 2018-2022 and the poverty alleviation strategy 2018-2022 and the strategy of treatment of slums complexes in Iraq and the plan to develop the Social Development Fund as well as the strategy of private sector development 2015-2030 as well as the national framework document for the reconstruction of liberated areas for years 2018-2027.
Al-Jumaili said that all these plans and strategies were prepared in cooperation and coordination with the concerned parties and partners of international organizations and therefore came from the womb of the reality taking into account the circumstances and challenges that Iraq is going through, including the economic conditions, considering that Iraq is not poor but has the economic potential that qualifies it to be a coherent economy through proper management..
Al-Jumaili reviewed some of the population indicators, as at the end of 2016, the population reached about 37 million and 800 thousand people, describing the Iraqi society as a young society. The percentage of the population under 15 years of age is 41% of the total population. The countryside is 32%.
The national development plan faces a series of institutional challenges, such as the slackening of the government apparatus, corruption, the preparation of unemployed graduates, economic challenges such as lack of non-oil revenues, high amounts of debt, increased expenditure on revenues, limited private sector, low customs imports due to corruption, smuggling and the lack of money collected from electricity and water, , and environmental challenges such as random expansion, where about 10% of the population lives in slums.
• The government directs the approval of the Ministry of Planning to develop civil colleges, as is the case for postgraduate studies in order to control the large numbers of graduates. Vocational education is needed more than higher education, because vocational education is required in industrial production processes.
• Providing services through social protection, reconstruction and economic recovery to improve social protection systems, support economic recovery and reconstruction, restore service provision in poor and militarily affected areas, improve the quality and efficiency of public infrastructure services, and improve the quality of Health care and education services in Iraq.
• Activate the role of the private sector
Al-Jumaili met representatives of the Iraqi private sector and discussed with them the reality of the private sector and ways to expand its participation in the development march in the light of the next development plan and the economic openness of Iraq and reconstruction operations, as the private sector has the potentials and qualifications that enhance its active participation with the public sector through the development of investment projects indicating that there are a lot of investment projects listed in the investment platform and were under implementation at the beginning of the financial crisis in 2014 . The government has taken a series of measures to address this problem by prioritizing and presenting them as investment opportunities.
He pointed out that the development in Iraq has faced challenges in the past years hich have negatively affected the development plans, especially the development plan 2013-2017 due to political and security instability, corruption and environmental challenges.
Jumaili stressed that the new development plan 2018-2022 will be a plan binding implementation to ensure its implementation by all relevant parties, noting that the ministry relies heavily on the role of local governments in development.
• The development plan focuses on four main axes: good governance (E-government adoption, decentralization), e-government means: the use of ICT; to improve the performance of government services; and changing the way of service performance from a routine, bureaucracy and complex measures to a procedure that it depends on the use of information and communication technology; to improve the performance of government services, and to provide citizens in an easy way through the Internet which saves a lot of effort and money to it , thus reducing the cost of service performance.
Good governance facilitates the efficiency, transparency and accuracy of the Government’s work in dealing with citizens and business enterprises and it facilitates the provision of services to citizens as quickly as possible and with a high degree of accuracy. And reduce the costs related to government departments of paper transactions, rent of premises, and consumption of water, electricity and communications.
Jumaili focused on reconstruction and development (infrastructure and local governance), developing the private sector to become a partner in development, the social dimension (the national poverty reduction strategy is to enable the poor and not just to help him.
He explained that all the signs at the moment indicate the absence of an economic problem in Iraq as the potential and resources possessed by Iraq enable it to overcome the economic crises that may pass it, but the main problem lies in the mismanagement of those potentials and resources.
• The drop in oil prices has revealed a lot of corruption and negativity in project transfers and implementation of it in the previous period, such as: raising the estimated costs of projects and delivery of exaggerated percentages of the initial advance to the contractors by exceptional decisions, or agree with them to provide low prices and compensation for the loss later Called spare orders.
• After the drop in oil prices, the government tried to balance between the debts owed by the government such as payment to contractors and completion of projects and the lack of cash available to them, so it resorted to reduce the number of projects under implementation by reclassifying them according to its strategic importance and priority of citizens, and issued Treasury bonds to pay contractors.
• Administrative decentralization and provincial councils have played a negative role in disrupting projects and delaying the ministry’s work, as the change of governors leads to changing priorities according to the political mood. The projects are affected by the electoral interests of the members of the provincial councils, and the replacement of experiences creates several problems, notably disruption of work.
• The Ministry of Planning has tried to encourage the development role of some ministries. Two trillion dinars have been allocated to the Ministry of Industry to develop new production lines that encourage local industry and contribute to the operation of more manpower.
• Previous governments have made some decisions that contributed to the spread of corruption through the negative use of some officials, and those decisions to allow the procurement from public sector by percentage of 10% more than the equivalent in the private sector.
• The government seeks to increase the revenues of the state through a number of procedures, including the restriction of the import of gold through the airports of Baghdad and Najaf, as the amount of imported gold annually about sixty tons.
• Purchases by the Ministry of Commerce from local factories (such as the Etihad Sugar and oil Factory ) are aimed at protecting and encouraging local products and manpower. The ration card, although not sufficient for a full year, plays a balanced role in keeping food prices away from the greed of traders. .
• The majority of internal debts owed by the Iraqi government are debts owed to government banks, Rafidain, Rasheed and the Central Bank, and this issue can be considered somewhat positive.
• Iraq benefits from the International Monetary Fund as one of the founding countries of the Fund, but the IMF’s loans have many consequences, as the approval of the Fund must be obtained on the federal budgets and the conditions imposed by the IMF on Iraq to stop appointments, and the IMF specifies a certain amount of Budget deficit that can not be exceeded.
• Despite the commitment of the state to provide housing in accordance with Article 31 of the Constitution, but the lack of funding hinder it, and the private sector, especially banks can play an important role in providing housing through investments, as is happening in many neighboring countries such as Jordan and the Gulf.
We conclude that the Ministry of Planning is working on sustainable development and the implementation of national plans and progress based on the indicators adopted internationally to be formulated and launched as a national and international commitment.
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies