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Ali is an economist and political analyst, working at a private UK-based company. He worked previously at the World Health Organisation and has an MSc in Development Studies from SOAS. You can follow him on Twitter (@alialsaffar).

Intensifying dialogue

July 20th was a remarkable, truly groundbreaking day for Iraqis. It is the day Iraqiyya and State of Law decided they would ”intensify dialogue”’. July has been full of treats for those pesky voters who keep demanding that they want a government. Just two days before, Messrs Allawi and Moqtada made an even more momentous announcement:  that they have agreed ”to speed up the formation of a government”.

I don’t know what on earth it is that the average-Jo(wad) wants. Granted electricity is a bit poor, health services aren’t great and air and noise pollution are a bit high…what with those car bombs and all…but at least they can now choose who they want to govern them. It’s only been four and a half months since they risked life and limb to vote. And its not like our politicians have been laying idle that whole time either. For goodness sake they just agreed that they would intensify dialogue!

But wait…there is a problem. I’m an economist. So I’ll  try to explain it in numbers. You see, at the beginning of the year, Iraq released its 2010 budget of US$71bn. Out of this, US$51bn will go towards ‘operating costs’ (i.e wages). US19.7bn was allocated for capital expenditure (i.e schools, hospitals, roads, electricity projects)….the little luxuries those annoying little voters expect, for some reason or another.

If the government actually stuck to this budget, Iraq would have a deficit of US$19bn this year. The thing is, 6 months into the fiscal year and Iraq is not running a deficit. This is because the money put aside for capital projects is not being spent. So what we have, effectively, is  lame-duck administration that is unable to do anything to lavish these little luxuries on the Iraqi people, even though it has the money to do so.

I am glad that dialogue will now be ”intensified”. Who knows, maybe we will be lucky enough to have a government in Iraq before the start of Ramadhan…if we don’t, then I have a suggestion. Maybe Iraq could adopt anarchy as its formal system of governance. It makes perfect sense; we will have the same outcome, but wont be paying US$3,510,000 a month for 325 dialogue intensifiers to facilitate nothingness.

7 Comments on “Intensifying dialogue”

  1. Mohammed Abdullah July 24, 2010 at 6:43 pm #

    Didn’t they intensify their salaries not too long ago?

  2. Hayder al-Khoei July 24, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    This is good power politics. When Ma’mun asked his father, Harun al-Rashid, why he didn’t give up the Caliphate to the grandson of the Prophet, Imam Musa al-Kadhim, Harun replied, “wayhak! inahul mulk, walo nazi3tini fih laqala3to ma fihi 3aynak”

    My point being, (al-amthal tudhrab wala toqas)if Harun al-Rashid did not give up his seat for an infallible Imam he knew had more right to the Caliphate, what are the chances Maliki is going to turn around to Allawi and say “itfadhel, you won the most votes, here’s the keys to the Palace”

  3. Hayder al-Khoei July 24, 2010 at 7:11 pm #

    Or Allawi replying “la habibi, you have the biggest bloc in Parliament, you go ahead” or Hakim saying “shabab I only won 20 seats so I’m going to sit this one out. Allah, mohammed o Ali wiyakum”

  4. Ahmed July 24, 2010 at 7:17 pm #

    Hayder, good point.. But while Harun al-Rasheed did not acknowledge al-Imam, Maliki and most of the politicians comply with orders and guidance of the marjiya, hence the marjiya should turn up the pressure even more on those politicians and hold them accountable. It’s the last resort of the people, after God. If marjiya can’t do a thing, then we will have to wait for a miracle, or a military intervention after another 3 decades!

  5. Hayder al-Khoei July 24, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    if the marji’iya gets involved it will set a bad precedent for Iraq. The politicians should be able to deal with politics. Guidance is one thing, but telling them what to do is another matter.

  6. Ali MM July 24, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    The unelected marjaiyya have no right to get out of its depth by getting involved in politics or influencing the decisions of elected politicians. Today they may use their influence to speed up the formation of the government, but this will mean tomorrow they can just as easily direct government policy or get rid of prime ministers.

    I think one of the outcomes of this whole debacle will be a strong drop in public support for Maliki. Both his and Allawi’s behaviour has been despicable (as has the INA’s attempts to force through a weak candidate of their own). But there is no point getting carried away and talking about the unsuitablity of democracy for the Iraqi people as some people have done. While it is true that some countries like the UK have dealt with these situations with much more grace and efficiency a la Gordon Brown, these sorts of convoluted dialogues and delays are common in parliamentary democracies. It took Holland 9 months to form a government after their 1977 elections; hopefully it will be sooner for Iraq.

  7. Ali July 25, 2010 at 2:23 am #

    /\ Well you could argue that there votes is how much people actually listen to them.

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