Driving a Ferrari with a Lada machine

January 23, 2012

When l.paul bremer dissolved the army and the bath party, he should have dissolved one more institution: the Iraqi Civil Service. One may think that this is such an extreme and irrational step to take but in reality it is one of the main causes for many of the problems that we face today including lack of transparency and the ongoing corruption.

The public service sector in iraq has become one of the key institutions that hamper our progress. While it may have been efficient and good for a period of time in the past; today, it is inefficient, slow and archaic. It is an institution that does not correspond to todays needs.

The civil service sector should be the sector that translates the vision of the people and the leaders vision for the future, here it is the other way round. The size, limitations and difficulties of this institution are shaping the vision and plans of our political parties and also the people.

It has become the trademark of not getting anything done and the place for killing any initiative or creativity. Furthermore, it is almost the only place where corruption is rife and transparency is at its worst. This is mainly because it is a leftover of two cultures. The old soviet-style regime and the dictatorship of the Baath party. Both are the natural habitat for corruption and secrecy.

When the regime changed, the machine stayed. This created the gap between the needs of today and the reality of the means to achieve them. Today, even if the state wants to be transparent and truly fights corruption, it would not be able to do so with the current Public Sector. Simple because it is not configured to be transparent and it is not based on todays ideals.

Furthermore, the civil service institution has become the tool for political parties to score points and provide false employment for electioneering purposes more than anything else. As a result the institution is heavily driven by certain individuals and their political parties agendas and not the public good or sound governance and economic principles.

Few or no institution is able to tel exactly what its mandate is and how many people does it need exactly to get its job done. In the UK for example, the last number I heard of the civil service work force is 400,000 for a population of over 60million people. In Kurdistan Region we have over a million civil servants for a population of about 5million.

Most of us have faced the daunting and funny challenge of getting something done in a government office. The typical scenario is when you enter a room with three desks and nine people all doing the same thing: eating sunflower seeds, taking the document from you, continue talking to each other as if you are a machine, stamp and sign the document and gives it back at once only for you to do the same in the next room.

At the age of e-government, wikileaks and social media we still use pen and paper and are completely secretive about our data and we are very inefficient when it comes to getting anything done.

Perhapse my openning statement was a bit extreme but it is an expression of the gravity of the situation that we do not feel its urgency. Especially after what we have seen that L. Paul Bremer was the master of not getting anything done.

But the reality is that the system is too old to modernize, too rigid to reform, too slow to move fast and too closed to open. Minor tweaks here and there wont do much. It needs an overhaul.

The step would be very unpopular but it would be the right thing to do. After all, you can not brag about a Ferrari car that has the machine of a Lada

    follow me
    mail me