Iraq: A Country in Shambles

Despite promises made for improvements, Iraq’s economy and infrastructure are still a disaster – Published on Al Jazeera, by Dahr Jamail, January 9, 2012.

Baghdad, Iraq – As a daily drumbeat of violence continues to reverberate across Iraq, people here continue to struggle to find some sense of normality, a task made increasingly difficult due to ongoing violence and the lack of both water and electricity.

During the build-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration promised the war would bring Iraqis a better life, and vast improvements in their infrastructure, which had been severely debilitated by nearly 13 years of strangling economic sanctions. 

More jobs, improved water availability, more reliable electricity supplies, and major rehabilitation of the medical infrastructure were promised.

But now that the US military has ended its formal military occupation of Iraq, nearly eight years of war has left the promises as little more than a mirage.

Ongoing water shortages: … //

… Broken economy:

According to the UNDP, Iraq has a poverty rate of 23 per cent, which means roughly six million Iraqis are plagued by poverty and hunger, despite the recent increase in Iraq’s oil exports. Iraq’s Ministry of Planning has also announced that the country needed some $6.8bn to reduce the level of poverty in the country.

Zahra concurs.

“No-one in my family has a job,” he said. “And in my sister’s house, they are seven adults, and only two of them work.”

Inside a busy market, Hassan Jaibur, a medical assistant who cannot find work in his field, is instead selling fruit.

“The situation is bad and getting worse,” he said. “Prices continue to rise, and there are no real jobs. All we can do is live today.”

Jaibur said he and his family are living on the fruit he sells, but he has a sick child and any profits he earns all go to medication.

“All of my relatives and friends are in a similar situation,” he added. “Most of them try to find work as day labourers.”

Gheda Karam sells dates and fruits. Her husband was paralysed during the Iraq-Iran war, and the benefits they get from the government for his disability are not enough.

“My family is suffering too much,” she told Al Jazeera. “Even yesterday we did not eat dinner. We are 20 of us in an old house, and I’m the only one with work.”

She paused to cry, then wiped away the tears.

“My children see things in the market they want to eat or drink, but we can afford none of it, and I am in debt to the fruit sellers. God help us.”

The state of the economy in Iraq is a disaster. Yet this irony is highlighted by the fact that Iraq has proven oil reserves third only behind Saudi Arabia and Iran – hence one would expect it to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

But nowhere is the lack of economic growth more evident than in Baghdad. According to the Central Bank of Iraq, unemployment and “under-employment” are both at 46 per cent, although many in Iraq feel this is a generously low estimate.

Iraq continues to have a cash economy; meaning there are no credit cards, almost no checking accounts, no transfer of electronic funds, and only a few ATMs.

Iraq lacks a functioning postal service, has no public transportation, nor a national airline – and most goods sold in Iraq are imported.

Only in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq is there rapid development and an effectively functioning government.

Iraq is ranked the eighth most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International. That means Iraq is tied with Haiti, and just barely less corrupt than Afghanistan.

One of Iraq’s ministers recently took a forced resignation because he signed a billion-dollar contract with a bankrupt German company, along with a shell company in Canada, which had no assets or operations, only an address.

Lack of security: … (full long text).

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