SOUTH KURDISTAN (IRAQ) – 15 Feb 2016 – By Arian Mufid: Kurdistan Tribune – Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) prime minister Nichirvan Barzani is no doubt aware that the general perception people hold of his role in the south of Kurdistan is that his efforts have been exclusively focused on his plans to change the south of Kurdistan into another Dubai. Of course Nirchirvan Barzani speaks from a position of privilege; he is Masud Barzani’s nephew and son-in-law. Like most of that family he seeks to perpetuate privileges solely for his own self-interests.
Over the last decade his policies have proven that his interests have been focused upon preserving privileges for the wealthy and upper classes. For example big companies in Erbil have been exempt from tax and electricity payments etc. It has resulted in widening rather than narrowing the gap between the poor and rich people. Since Nichirvan Barzani came to power he has not pioneered any brilliant alternatives to the awful economic structure in the south of Kurdistan. He has failed to strengthen basic institutions in the south of Kurdistan including the criminal justice system and similarly has failed to provide substance to the universities. For the last decade social inequalities have increased, resulting in poor people being held back further.The problem is that he and other leaders of the south of Kurdistan are not up to the challenge.
The well-qualified Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami, who gained his doctorate in Scotland, has failed to identify the paramount importance of collecting taxes from major companies. He has failed to identify the main strategic factors to support industries in the south of Kurdistan. In his interviews he acts like he rules the whole world but he has done so little, despite the resources he and his Prime Minister have had at their disposal. He has failed to introduce any regulations of the companies in the south of Kurdistan. He was the Kurdish Oil Minister and Chancellor simultaneously. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leadership and their Prime Minister trusted him to such an extent that they agreed to permit the dubious arrangements to continue. The question must be raised, for example, as to who is at fault in the requirement to repay Dana Gas $100 million and the frequent fines associated with such debts.
Ashti Hawrari is a self-made man who built his fortune with Scottish companies but failed to build a good model for the south of Kurdistan. His model has only produced more corruption and strategies dependent on oil. His relentless struggle within the KRG has proved the limits of his capabilities to lead and manage the situation. The shortages of gas, oil and electricity in the market together with the higher price of petrol are issues which were supposed to have been addressed by a man such as him, with his supposed qualities and experience. To his critics he looks more like another Barzani proxy than the Oil Minister. The KRG claims that they owe $20 billion to local and foreign companies that were under the auspices of our Oil Minister Ashti Hawrami. In theory, taxes from foreign companies should be paid where economic activity takes place and valuable goods and assets are created. In reality, he has failed to enforce this: these basic economic principles have become blurred when he is dealing with foreign companies.
Finally, Nichirvan Barzani and Ashti Hawrari have become credible threats to the KRG, with neither individual holding the principles or the motivation to tackle the economic and social problems. I have strong doubts that these two can turn their rhetoric into something useful. Let me raise some more pertinent questions in relation to their record. Have they managed to build a central bank to control the supply and demands for money? The answer is no. Have they managed to build one refinery centre? The answer is no, what we have instead are hundreds of illegal refinery centres. Has they managed to solve the drought of cash in the market? The answer once again is no.