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“Lets fix it!”

At the last Council Ministers meeting – in the presence of the chairs of the Parliamentary blocs and the Parliament committees of Finance and Natural Resources, the Natural Resources Minister, Ashty Hawramy, Finance Minister Rebaz Hamlan and Deputy Premier, Qubad Talabani – Premier Nechirvan Barzani gave the attendees a historic confession: “In my name and Qubad Talabani, too, I say, we, PUK and KDP, have implemented the worst kind of governance in the past 23 years of KRG’s establishment which cannot be excused anymore, let’s fix it.”

Is KRG Broke?

This statement was revealed on 9th August by Soran Omer, a Member of Parliament from the Islamic Group faction, who had attended the meeting.

“Let’s fix it.” But the big question is HOW?

Here are the most crucial challenges for the KRG, which cannot be ignored any longer as they are seriously connected with the future of Kurdistan and the Kurds, and the people’s grievances:

Corruption

The root of all problems in the Kurdistan Region (KR) is, without a doubt, corruption. Corruption has become an incurable disease that threatens to debilitate the entire system; including large sections of the society, politics, economy, administration, education, health, and even religious foundations. It is a universal fact that the rise of corruption cripples progression and development.

Firsat Sofi, a KDP MP, recently said that “Corruption is more dangerous than ISIS.” After his statements, on 3rd August on NRTV’s Think Twice program, he showed a letter that Masoud Barzani had sent him to support his efforts in standing against corruption. Barzani had written to him: “… I ask you to bring every corrupt individual to justice and name and shame them…”

No one in Kurdistan refutes the fact that corruption has choked the region, but all the efforts to tackle corruption have so far been in vain. In fact, the real reason for this is that powerful individuals at the top of the hierarchy infected with the corruption disease are undermining the system. Ali Hama Salih, an anti-corruption Gorran MP, has received numerous threats aimed at preventing him from uncovering corruption cases. He said: “… I went to a minister and told him about a corruption case in relations to public lands, the minister said ‘a strong man is behind that corruption, and I cannot do anything about it’.”

Henceforth tackling corruption in KR is similar to cleaning up a staircase: one has to start from the very top. Let’s fix it from the top, indeed.

Peshmerge

Even though Peshmerge forces have bravely fought against the most barbaric force, Daesh (ISIS), there have been some crucial failures, including defeats in Shingal, because of a lack of professionalization, disorganization and non-nationalization.

The Peshmerge needs to be professionalized, organized and nationalized. Luckily, the ordinary Peshmerga are mostly for a national force under the command of the Peshmerge Ministry rather than controlled by the KDP or PUK.

The KDP and PUK are real obstacles to unifying Peshmerge forces. If the KDP and PUK had a genuine will to unify the Peshmerge, they could do it because now the Peshmerge ministry is controlled by the Change Movement (Gorran) which does not have a partisan militia. The United States have decided on creating three military brigades under the Peshmerge Ministry. It must be developed and units of 70 and 80 from the PUK and KDP forces, with Zerevani of the KDP as well, should all be incorporated into the Peshmerge Ministry. The Peshmerge should be an entirely civil force and its commanders, and members must not be affiliated to any political parties.

Most of the KDP and PUK Peshmerge commanders should be retired so as to create the chance to build a new, effective army, as the old guardians of the Partisan forces will never allow their unification.

The KDP and PUK will continue making obstacles to unifying the Peshmerge because each party has giant economic and political interests at stake, and their long history of conflicts has destroyed every bit of trust. Let’s fix it, shall we?

Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas have become a curse for the people; through oil and gas revenues the KDP and PUK top leaders have become billionaires and established a rentier patronage system which merely serves KDP and PUK interests.

Without a radical change in oil and gas policies, to serve the people of Kurdistan, KR’s stability is under threat.

Transparency is the key element into turning Kurdistan’s natural resources into a boon for the people. The oil and gas have so far benefited the two families and KDP and PUK circles, and this needs to be changed. The control of the oil and gas business by the KDP and PUK must end. Let’s fix this one, too.

Governance and Institutionalization

As Nechirvan Barzani said, the KRG’s reign over the past 23 years has been the worst kind of governance, and this is mainly because of a lack of institutionalization. Apart from nepotism, partisanship, tribalism and family interests, which have been the basis for distributing governmental positions, the employment of people lacking any qualifications has made the KRG institutions the most institutionalized institutions.

While the PUK and winners from other political parties in the Provincial Election in the Sulaimani province have divided positions according to their votes, this approach does not exist in Duhok and Erbil, where the KDP retains all power and posts.

As the first step, the KDP should stop occupying and monopolizing the governmental positions. Will you fix it?

The second step should be working on institutionalizing the institutions through training, workshops, courses and monitoring by the local NGOs and courts.

Asayish (Security Services)

This is one of the most crucially needed reforms. If the KRG had a national Asayish force, the massacre of Shingal might not have happened. It is difficult to have two security forces operating in a small region: their work will inevitably diverge and conflict.

The KDP and PUK still possess their security forces that protect their interests. In the past few days, it has been proved how terrible the situation will be if the Asayish is not unified because the KDP sent a brigade to conduct military maneuvres in Erbil in order to threaten the other political parties and the people of Kurdistan, displaying weapons from the USA and other Coalition Forces that were intended for the KRG. The KDP Asayish and Peshmerge used party political language at their military show in Erbil as a threat.

Democracy will never be developed if the Asayish and Peshmerge are not united because, whenever democracy may turn against KDP and PUK interests, the Peshmerge and Asayish will be used against democracy, as we now see with the KDP describing a legal procedure to amend the Presidential Law in Parliament as a coup and threatening to fight those who will not join a political consensus in the KDP’s interests.

Higher Education

Let the academy work and do not affiliate it with politics. Political parties have inaugurated their professors as university presidents and deans, based not on merit but their political affiliations. Most of the professors and university employees are forced to be members of political parties, and this has to stop. A reform of higher education must be pursued but, without cutting the partisan influences in the universities, nothing moves forward. It’s fixable, let’s do it.

Health System

Unfortunately, the KRG’s health system is the worst in the region. If you pay a visit to any of our hospitals, followed by going to Iranian or Turkish hospitals, you will realize the difference. People of Kurdistan do not trust the hospitals and medicine here. It is because they’ve had very bad experiences with the local health system. The KDP and PUK have tried to privatize the health sector without making any regulations for private hospitals. Kosrat Rasul, KR deputy president, is from a social democrat party and his party has long called for free health care for the people, but now he owns the biggest private hospital in Erbil where the prices are as high as in a European country.

Develop public hospitals and regulate private hospitals for the sake of the patients. We can fix it, if there is a will.

Note: This piece was first published on http://www.pasewan.com

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