Tag Archives: Erbil

Erbil Deserves Equal Focus as Baghdad

As Iraq continued to make slow but steady gains against the Islamic State (IS), politicians were equally busy with scuffling and fighting of their own in parliament as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s reform drive continued to hit obstacles.

Abadi’s proposed cabinet reshuffle and reform plan, after weeks of protests led by influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr over corruption, lack of public services and a gloomy economic picture, has been met with fierce resistance. A plan for a government of technocrats to replace party-affiliated minister is great in theory but impossible in practice in the complicated landscape that is Iraq.

Are these relatively unknown technocrats, who lack any real clout or influence, really going to sway dominant parties who rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds?

More importantly, the great focus of the U.N. and international powers on Baghdad’s struggles by promoting stability and providing significant military aid and financial assistance merely ignores the equally difficult plight of the Kurdistan Region.

Whilst the region may not have experienced the same social unrest or public protests seen in the rest of Iraq, Kurdistan has been operating under great constraints for over 2 years. If the dramatic decline of oil prices hit Baghdad hard then this is only amplified for Kurdistan where budget payments were already frozen by Baghdad putting pressure on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) long before IS arrived on the scene, refugees arrived in droves and oil prices tumbled.

Erbil’s fight against IS is no less significant than Baghdad’s, and the West should not just respond to whoever creates the biggest social or political commotion.

Kurdistan deserves an entitlement of all aid provided to Baghdad including its own financial assistance package from the international community.

If Baghdad has limited cards at its disposal to turn the economy around, then the KRG has a much tougher hand to work with. For example, the KRG cannot control value of the Iraqi currency or raise debts on financial markets.

Of course, the urgent need for financial assistance in Kurdistan should not mask the need to continue its reform drive. The economy is overly reliant on oil revenues, there is a lack of a tax regime, there a need for greater transparency and far too much of the population relies directly on government salaries.

The Peshmerga, who are at the heart of the coalition war on IS, do not receive salaries in months as with much of the population. If this scenario was mirrored in the U.S. or E.U., there would be great chaos and unrest.

The Kurdish population has been fairly resilient so far, but patience when families are affected so deeply, can only stretch so far.

KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani recently urged for coalition partners to provide budgetary support, warning that the crisis facing the region had made it one of the “most vulnerable entities in the coalition.”

Which government in the E.U. would not suffer if they had over million refugees to support, crippling revenue streams, insufficient international support and a war on its door step?

The crisis is bound to impact the fight against IS and the current cycle cannot continue.

Talabani stressed that reform measures had cut the monthly deficit to $100 million, but further support was now needed. “It’s important for our friends around the world to realize that this threat facing Kurdistan … is real and without immediate direct support the experiment of Kurdistan is in danger,” warned Talabani.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

The rise of Kurdistan must not come to the detriment of future generations

The new faceplate of Kurdistan is not an indicator of progress society still has to make

In most countries, extensive transformation of infrastructure, economy and society is a lengthy process over a considerable period of time. In Kurdistan, immense changes have taken place in little over a decade.

New high-rise buildings, luxury restaurants, 5-star hotels and dozens of malls now dot the Erbil landscape and the change in a short-period of time is remarkable. However, do society, the attitude and understanding of people and general skills and education really advance in parallel?

Evidently, transformation in the faceplate of the city is not enough for Kurdistan as a whole to really advance. In western countries, it took centuries for infrastructure and society to get where it is today.

The trials and tribulations and sufferings of the Kurds to get to the stature of today are taking for granted, especially amongst the youths.

In Kurdistan it is now common to see families own two or more cars in a single household or enjoy multiple incomes. People carry with them the latest smart phones and continuously strive for the next best thing. Just 5 years ago, old cars even from the 80’s were still prevalent, internet and technology was enjoyed by the few and there was hardly a mall or luxury hotel in sight. But while a rapidly growing city may belie its tender years in terms of real modernisation, it can be misleading in the progression of greater society.

A prime example is the attitude towards waste and litter. Kurdish families stock up on all sorts of food and dress in their glittering traditional Kurdish outfits and leave their homes in the early morning, spending much time securing a beautiful spot amongst the great landscape of Kurdistan to savour their day off. The trip is dominated by expressions of how comfortable, enjoyable and scenic the surrounding is. Yet after several hours of enjoyment and feasting, most Kurdish families leave a tale of destruction – litter and waste.

Rubbish and waste literally dot the surrounding area where the family sat. The blasé attitude employed amongst the masses is a detriment to the future generations. Why not allow another family to revel in the enjoyment you tasted another week?

As materialism grows in Kurdistan, so does the seemingly selfish nature of some people. Without working together, improving bonds within communities and an appreciation for the future amongst the masses, the advancement of Kurdistan will be hampered.

A selfish personal drive to attain fortune and enjoyment will see future generations suffer. Take to the road in Kurdistan and rarely does one give way to another or give thanks to other drivers.

Kurdistan beauty lies in its millennia old heritage, in its culture that is passed from generation to generation for thousands of years, in its immense hospitality and warm hearts and in the ability of the people to stick together and triumph against the odds.

As capitalism take grip and consumerism and new buildings rise, this must not dilute Kurdish culture. With the exception of the newly renovated Kurdish Textile and Cultural Museum in Qalat, museums and centres where culture can be preserved, displayed and celebrated are rare.

Foreigners and tourists must get a taste of the privilege to live amongst the Kurds and Kurdish culture and not just enjoyment in the best hotels and restaurants.

Education must be enhanced in Kurdistan so it is the Kurds who dominate highly-skilled jobs and technical and medical profiles. Above all else, the people must obtain an understanding of the importance of hard-work and putting real effort in achieving their goals without shortcuts.

Some people want to work as few hours as possible, put minimal effort and still become rich. A key action is promote and strengthen the private sector and reduces the strong dependency on the government for jobs.

The ability to combine the needs of today with the needs of tomorrow is essential. The growing pollution in Erbil can never be a good thing. The lack of a public transport system is detrimental as the road network cannot accommodate all these cars no matter how fast the Kurdish government builds new roads.

People continue to waste immense amounts of electricity and water and complain about lack of services. The appreciation for saving electricity and energy should not be valued on monetary means alone but on the benefits of the future generation.

This is the same case with recycling. Tons of wastage does not just miraculously disappear. It needs go somewhere and unfortunately with great effect on the future environment. Tons of plastics and metals could be recycled than end up in landfill sites.

The moral of this story is not to downplay the phenomenal rise of Kurdistan. It is to build a Kurdistan that will be sustained for hundreds of years and that many generations can continuously enjoy. The current selfish lifestyle and disregard for greater society, environment and the wellbeing of others, can only last a certain course.

The bottom line is that no disregard and neglect today is without future pay pack tomorrow.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc