Despite witnessing the increase in oil revenue in 2019, Iraqi government seems to be incapable of meeting the demands of the public, majority of whom is the vibrant youth. The wave of protests that went violent raises eyebrows over the functioning of the state and their sincere intention of curbing the corrupt elements within the official ranks.
The recent eruption of the protests is largely due to unemployment, hiking prices of daily goods and consistent degradation in the lifestyle of the people. It is astonishing to observe that the country which receives around 90% of its revenue from oil resources and is the third-largest exporter of oil, is finding itself in disarray in meeting the economic demands of the public.
The problem lies in the predominantly sectarian nature of political structure of the state. The structure which developed in post-Saddam era, mainly proved beneficial for the political elites who, through their informal alliances and consensus, were able to govern the masses. Due to such agreements, the role of political institutions, mainly the Parliament, was largely overshadowed.
The lack of government budget in health and education sector have deprived the people of their basic needs. The continuous forging has frustrated the public
Another factor might be the association of various political fragments with the regional and international powers. This has turned Iraq into a breeding ground for proxy warfare where each actor is trying to shape the domestic environment which would help enhance its own influence. The central focus of the politicians, bureaucrats and other officials is largely diverted from public interests as they weigh their own power much higher.
The obsession of staying in power by the political elites has greatly damaged the Iraqi cause. The power-sharing mechanism which gives each social group the representation in Parliament has backlashed. This is evident from the situation which arose shortly after the Iraqi Elections in 2018. The election result, where highlighted the division within the society, also shed light upon the foreign influence into domestic policies.
Thus, the local elites, to consolidate their own power, work for the foreign actors and in return, receives the necessary support from them. Now almost 16 years after the US invasion, Iraq is still struggling both in political and economic terms. The repetition of same old rhetoric without any significant output has created a wide gap between the state and the people. People from various backgrounds have now started to realize their vulnerability due to the existing power play.
Despite of receiving huge surplus from the oil revenue, the lack of jobs and other public goods reflected the inefficiency of the Iraqi Government. Many scholars argued that the problem lies in the political dynamics of the country. The wave of protests across the Arab States in the wake of Arab Spring in 2011, had shown, for the first time, the growing demands of the public. Almost all of the Gulf States were able to come out unharmed from the Arab Spring. This was because of the economic incentive offered by those states due to their enormous wealth owing to the oil sector.
But the case study of Iraq is slightly different. Unlike other oil-producing countries, Iraq is a war-torn country with the blend of sectarianism and proxies. This political reality have greatly shaped the current crisis of the state. But all the burden cannot be put on these factors as many scholars believe. The major problem still lies in the respective political strata who exploit the ethnic and sectarian sentiments for their political gains while the social issues remain unheard.
While chanting their concerns, protestors complained about their miseries. “We see the flaring oil fields but still we face poor conditions”, one protestor resonated his concern while talking to an international media outlet. The poor policy-making and management have largely contributed in bringing out people from their homes and workplaces in echoing their issues to the government.
The lack of government budget in health and education sector have deprived the people of their basic needs. The continuous forging has frustrated the public. Though the Prime Minister, Adel Abul Mahdi, has agreed to step down and promised to create jobs, the possible end of the protests seems to be unlikely. It seems that the people have had enough and mere resignation or promises would not have any effect in calming down the protestors.
The protestors demand serious reforming which would be aimed at quelling the corrupt elements and restructuring of the state. Once, such process has begun, it would initiate the reforms from both ends. It has been about a month and a half since the protests have started on October 1. The governmental failure is depicted from this very fact that no progress has made so far. The further delay in devising any decisive strategy would result in some serious consequences for Iraq as the Fertile Crescent is now fertile enough of having another abrupt transformation which could potentially shake the roots of the state.