Can Corruption Go?

March 15, 2011

After Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Maliki’s 100-day ultimatum for reform, and now that Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani has decided to start his own reform campaign, they and everyone else who wants to see the current situation changed must be reaching the conclusion that there is a real need to end corruption.
But the question here is: what corruption? Where? How do you end it? Who should be punished? Who should be deterred? Who should take part in the fight? How do you identify it? So far, there does not seem to be any clear answer to any of these questions.
We often say that terrorism and corruption are two sides of the same coin. But looking at Iraq’s war on terror, one can easily see that it has fallen victim to the political situation. The political make-up of the country has made it almost impossible to fight terrorism.
There has been no agreed definition for it. It has been politicized. There is Shiite terror and Sunni terror. At one point, even getting one side to condemn a terrorist act was quite an achievement – as the act had happened in the other side’s territory.
A few factors have contributed to the change of attitude: the political process has been more inclusive and hence, the definition of terrorism has been depoliticized, and the people have been more mobilized and motivated to end terrorism.
The turning point was when the Sahwa movement started and Prime Minister Maliki decided to fight the militia in the south. But the politics of the place and the system of ethnic, political and sectarian quota in government is making it impossible to have a clear vision, or plan for the future of security.
Just a reminder: the country still does not have a minister of interior, defense or national security.
As with terrorism, there does not seem to be any agreed definition of corruption; there does not seem to be any categorization, i.e. How many types of it are there in Iraq? Which type is more damaging to the state than the other? Which type of corruption is easier and more worthwhile to end than the other?
The way we are today, ending corruption in a serious way seems to be almost impossible for the following reasons:
1. Lack of a strong judiciary and an independent public integrity commission, away from party quota.
2. Not having a clear legal framework that defines corruption and sets the right deterrence for it. Laws such as the right to information and others are also not present in Iraq.
3. Not having accurate data, research or studies about corruption that can be used by those who want to fight it.
4. Lack of public support and buy-in for the fight on corruption, despite the demonstrations. So far there has been no strong awareness campaign on how to identify and fight it, for each individual according to their own situation.
5. Not providing the right conditions for those at the lower end of the government salary scale, in order to add incentive to prevent or end petty corruption.
6. Not punishing those at the higher end of the salary scale to deter the others.
7. Finally, and most importantly, for all of the above to be reversed, there needs to be a strong political will and leadership to do so. Nothing so far suggests the presence of the will or the capability to end corruption. The key reason is the dysfunctional politics of the country, in other words the quota system.
Unless the right procedures are put in place to prevent the quota system from entering the process of ending corruption of all types, no real move can be made to take corruption out of the state’s blood system.

    Hayder Fekaiki says:

    Hi Hiwa, Agree, corruption will be with us for a while and could stifle any chance for real socio-economic development and growth. The political fraternity has been quite instrumental in promoting further financial corruption at unprecedented scale and create a ‘third sector’ that straddles both public and private sectors.

    Absence of genuine political will shall also render futile all serious efforts to reform an otherwise dilapidated and mismanaged civil service that has quite naturally attracted and promoted a culture of low-level but wide scale corruption as citizens are forced to seek ‘unofficial’ means to pursue trivial matters such as paying traffic fines or replace their national ID cards…

    Economic reform and the deterrence of corruption also requires real political ‘cojones’ to question the size of our public sector and steadily move Iraq towards a market economy and a culture of entrepreneurship and creativity rather than a cash till dispensing salaries to a population of lazy consumers.


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