Fear of corruption disrupts the reconstruction of liberated cities, and influential investors take advantage of the opportunity

The war has been waged over the past two years and the liberated cities are still out of service. Hundreds of energy, water and sanitation projects are out of service and despite the Iraqi parliament’s approval of the highest budget since 2014, the government’s fear of corruption makes it reluctant to release money.

Any visitor is fascinated by the cities of Mosul, Anbar and Salah al-Din at first glance with the bright lights of the markets and dozens of luxury restaurants and large shopping centers, believing that these cities, which emerged from a devastating war against the organization of “Daesh” could rise again, and these features actually contributed to the return of life to these cities. Infrastructure projects of electricity and water, hospitals, destroyed buildings and broken roads are still the same.

The task of rebuilding the infrastructure rests with the federal government and the councils of these provinces, but the fear of corruption makes the government reluctant to spend money, especially as these cities are subject to political conflicts, rivalry or competition for powerful positions and use these government posts to obtain funds that go practically into the pockets of corrupt officials.

But the other problem lies in the quotas and budget share granted by the federal government for reconstructing the provinces, the little allocated amounts are not commensurate with the need of these cities, for example, the reconstruction of Mosul requires, as per the estimation of the United Nations and international organizations, about two billion dollars, while the share of Mosul in the budget for the year 2019 is only ( 250) million US dollars. Al-Anbar’s share is only 150 million US dollars while Saladin’s share is 170 million dollars. These two cities need about one billion dollars for reconstruction.

The bureaucracy of Iraqi institutions and the process of reconstruction is slow. Despite the approval of the general budget for the current year in January, the government has not yet sent the budget funds to the provinces so far. It is often launched in May of each year. This means that the provincial councils have to spend this money within seven months or else they return the unspent money to the state treasury at the end of the year. This is a serious loophole that opens the door to corruption, as local officials are forced to submit forged documents for fictitious projects to the government in large amounts.

A national council member of Saeroon Coalition Sadiq Saleety says “The budget was approved more than a month ago, and we entered the third month and did not undertake any work on the investment plan for the current year. This delay will cause most projects not to be completed before the summer season.”

The federal government fears corruption, especially in the liberated provinces, which are witnessing major conflicts between rival proxies within the provincial councils and exchanging accusations among themselves in a competition for influential positions in the process of disbursing funds and obtaining contracts for reconstruction. The losing parties in these provinces are challenging the legitimacy of the political forces holding on the affairs of the councils of these provinces because of the end of their mandate two years ago. As these cities and the rest of the provinces have not seen local elections since 2013, while the parties seeking control of senior positions of conservatives and heads of councils maintain their positions at any cost.

But the important question, which impacts the reconstruction process in these cities, is limited to lucrative business ventures as well as limited infrastructure projects that also prove to be profitable in the end. It seems that the slowdown of the federal government in the start of the reconstruction process opened the door to companies and businessmen and small investors linked to political parties and armed factions and influential tribal sheikhs to carry out this task, but this is at the expense of impoverished citizens.

Dozens of large commercial markets and restaurants have emerged rapidly in the cities of Mosul, Tikrit, Ramadi, Falluja and other liberated cities. These public appearances have already contributed to the revival of these cities, but a few months later, major issues began to emerge.

Usually you will find a large commercial market or a luxury restaurant that lies just a few meters away from the garbage, broken streets and destroyed houses, which no one can find to be repaired because they are the functions of government agencies.

While such a growing business needs a good standard of living for the population, unemployment problems are rising in these cities, with the growing number of young graduates from universities and colleges, and the loss of many of their residents for their own businesses and their capital. The government is no longer able to create jobs in its institutions, as was the case before 2014, after the collapse of oil prices and the rise of Iraq’s debts due to the rising costs of the war against ISIS.

Recently private companies and investors have begun offering their services to the citizens of these cities to rebuild infrastructure, but the citizen are the one who bears the high financial costs.

In al-Bakr region of Ramadi, the center of Anbar, whose residents are struggling to return home, dozens of families have returned to their homes despite the lack of basic services such as water and electricity, better than staying in camps, says Abdul Majid al-Dulaimi. He also says ” We were supposed to get compensation from the government to rebuild our homes. We waited months and we decided to build hour homes by ourselves, while private companies started to offer their services in repairing the streets and delivering drinking water and electricity”.

Al-Dulaimi says that these companies are doing government jobs, but they refuse to pay high wages to repair the electricity poles. This is a good step, but we are surprised a few weeks after the failure of these pillars because these companies are doing poor jobs just to get the money and profit. No one monitors the work of these companies and they they are not held accountable as these private companies and are often owned by influential people, who may be politicians or tribal sheikhs or armed factions who have and impact and influence in the regions. ”

Many residents of Mosul and Anbar point to significant reconstruction of the city by the United Nations and international organizations, including hospitals, roads and bridges, but say these projects are limited and does not cover the massive destruction wreaked in these cities.

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