Photo Credit: Janat Adnan / Photo Story
I have been invited to participate in the Iraq Public Policy and Leadership Program is an academic initiative with focus on public administration, policy development and good governance, a unique initiative provided jointly by Majid Jafar (CEO of Crescent Petroleum and Managing Director of the Board of Dana Gas) and the American University of Sharjah (AUS).
It is an 8 month program consisting of two sessions per month. The program is led by capable faculty members at AUS and other top institutions. Each session take place from 9 AM to 5 PM, The program’s objective is to train and enhance the leadership skills of a selected qualified Iraqi individuals from different industries, specialties and backgrounds. And to prepare them to be a future leaders for Iraq working to end corruption and develop the country.
The first session of the program focuses on the Iraqi Ethnic, Religion and Political Landscape. It was designed to explore the nation-building events that led to independency and monarchy, while exploring the roots and consequences of ethno-sectarianism on the development of the new Iraq. The session was led by Dr. Abbas Kadhim, an academic and author with research interests in Iraq. He is currently a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at The School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), of John Hopkins University.
The second session of the program focuses on State Building based on Efficiency, Accountability and Rule of Law. The session was lead by Dr. Paul Williams, American University of Sharjah and Mr. Luay Al Khatteeb, Executive Director of Iraq Energy Institute.
During the two sessions we were asked to give our opinion about the priorities for forming and developing the state of Iraq and building a strong nation, below is my opinion:
1- Rewriting the Constitution and Moving into Presidential System
The constitution was written during a very critical period, in 2003. It was developed by unqualified people and implemented hurriedly in 2005. As a constitution many people feel that it is extremely flawed, incomplete and requires many revisions.
Over the past decade we’ve tested the Parliamentarian system and found that it is not working. It has several filters and stages before the Prime Minster can be elected. As a result, it’s creating lots of parties, powers allowing the formation of mafias. Many of which are focused only on their personal benefits and party’s benefits.
The parliament system may take some time to work, we estimate approximately 50 to 100 years, but we don’t have that much time. Since we are in the information age, things can happen much quicker. We realize that there is no guarantee that a Presidential system will work but having tested the other system we’ve concluded that it’s not working and it’s time to test something different. As Albert Einstein so eloquently says. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
The point of the Parliamentary System is to implement laws more rapidly than the Presidential System but that is not what is happening in Iraq, The Presidential System might allow the creation of a dictatorship again by giving the power to one person or one party. But at least that person is elected directly by the people and the odds of having someone who is elected is better than having someone who is appointed via the Parliament elections. It gives us the option of having someone who can market himself well through the elections and win. Hopefully, someone who is a visionary leader, that can transform things significantly like other leaders have such as Mohamed Bin Rashed, Mahatma Ghandi, Abraham Lincoln or Mahathir Mohamed have, done in their countries.
Since the fall of Berlin wall in 1989, we are no longer in the Industrial age. As the Information and Technology age has emerged we are seeing 15-25 years old kids with small startups having power. Some of them have more power than big countries. Because leverage comes with the power of technology. Which is 2-5 year tech companies that are valued more than companies that have been around for decades or even centuries.
Developing an e-Government will solve many issues and speed up the development of the country. It will solve many issues related to security, communication, transparency, corruption, service and reduce the cost and resources effecting the country’s budget.
The e-Government will enhance the efficiency of many processes and allow the leaders in different sectors or ministries to make better decisions. The leaders of the ministries, cities or sectors would lead through certain dashboards that can be displayed through their computers. The dashboards will provide them with the data of the concurrent performance and goals for the future, allowing them to enhance the current performance. Leaders should be evaluated based on the data and results. The Iraq leaders should consult the Government in the UAE in those regards, as they have a successful story in terms of building an efficient e-Government.
3- Developing the Iraqi Human Resources
Iraqis are smart individuals, famous for their intelligence and critical thinking. Their problem is that they are so full of themselves and think that they know everything. Most of them live in the past. An Engineer who’s graduated before 30 years will appear to be bragging about his knowledge and degree because he is to be called an engineer. But if you dig deeper, you will find that he is so disconnected from what’s going in the world for a decade or two, in terms of advancement in his industry or sector.
The majority of Iraqi successes are individual successes. Whether in or out of the country, individual successes are linked to self-employed or individual professionals. For example, you will find a famous Iraqi doctor or engineer in most developed countries but very rarely will you see a successful big multinational Iraqi company. This is because of the selfishness that’s embedded in the Iraqi’s character. There is a voice in the back of the mind of each Iraqi that’s telling him/her (I know everything). We invented the wheel, created the first laws in the human history, we began civilization before 7000.
When you talk to a Greek person he will tell you that the origin of everything is Greek. Greece for centuries was the world’s leading empire but now they are swimming in debt and facing a financial crisis maybe because they forgot the present and future because they are to proud and busy thinking about the their past. In Iraq the situation is worse because, we have the resources to make money but we have poor management skills and a bad attitude. So, we need to change by developing campaigns through ads and training programs to help the Iraqi’s get equipped with the required knowledge consistently. Because the most important resource a country has is it’s people. We should learn from other nations like Germany or Japan whose countries were destroyed after the World War 2 but whose people have work to redevelop their countries and put them back in the lead in a few decades.
The new generation of Iraqi’s are spending their time watching football and smoking Shisha in the cafes. We need instead to shift the focus of our new generations into learning, adding value to others and to start developing the team spirit and cooperation inside our society, we need to question ourselves every day and ask “What value are we adding as individuals?”. Each person should start working on himself before lecturing others. We need to stop living in the past and start living in the present and plan our future, we need to think about the legacy that we will leave behind us when we die and how others will remember us.
4- Building a Platform to Attract the Foreign Investments and the Private Sector Investments
Politicians in general seem to only know how to spend money. Many of them have never earned money as entrepreneurs because they are bunch of inefficient bureaucrats who only know how to do things in old-fashioned way over and over again. They rarely do any out of the box thinking. Those who have made huge amount of money did so through bribes and commissions. They’ve spent most of their life as employees and never learned how to create money through entrepreneurial ventures. As a result, the economy is focused on oil as the main source for the country’s budget because the politicians are not raised to think like entrepreneurs. They don’t know how to create projects or invest the income generated through the oil resource in initiatives that will bring money to the country. They rely on budgets from the central government. Their job is to spend that budget and almost none of them is focused on the innovation side of creating money.
The solution for that is to enhance and support the private sector by creating laws that support the innovation and progress of the private sector and startups. We see the big successes of certain companies are based on building a platform that adds value to others. Upon building a platform that adds value, the money will follow. A great example is Uber, the biggest taxi service in the world that owns no cars. Take a look at Facebook, the biggest social media and content company in the world and it makes no content. And let’s not forget, AnB the biggest real-estate company in the world, and it owns no real estate. All these companies have one thing in common, they have built a great platform that adds value, after we see great added value then it’s obvious to see money and massive success to follow.
Another example, this time a city instead of a company, look at Dubai, the success of Dubai is mainly built based on building a platform through a system that attracts investments from all over the world. The city is built mainly by others people money because its providing a great platform that involves safety, prime location, a good transportation hub through their airlines, no tax, and laws that support the private sector. And over time it has become a financial center that attracted most of the multinational companies to select Dubai as its base for their headquarters to manage its operations in the Middle East region. Dubai’s success is due to the vision of its leaders to build a great hub and platform for multiple sectors to grow ranging from tourism and innovation to many other sectors that put the city in the top categories ranks related to wellbeing and business.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese Proverb
We need to Encourage entrepreneurship so people can learn to fish instead of feeding them a fish. The people need to steer away from being dependent on the government because that will put the people and the country in huge risk overtime. The entrepreneurial sector needs to be developed and encouraged by the government with the support of successful Iraqi business people from all over the world. We need to build startups with an ecosystem to encourage innovation and attract venture capitalists to invest in the Iraqi startups.
We need to stay away from pension plans and social security or healthcare plans and teach the people to be self-dependent. This can be done by teaching them to fish because those social security and healthcare plans will put the country in debt and create bills that can’t be paid. Such as the debt the United States has incurred. A debt that they have no idea how to repay so they just keep printing money out of thin air, which is devaluing their currency.
6- Decentralization of Power
Leadership is about empowering others, not by holding the power and decisions in one place but by centralizing it. It is not a one size fits all by giving authority to each city in Iraq through federalization can distinguish which city is working hard and tell which one is not. This will serve as a reflection of the leadership of that particular city and its people.
Decentralization will reduce the amount of corruption and will make people work harder with amazing spirit like a city team to represent and compete against others. Competition will push the innovation and creativity to a completely new level especially if the playing field is flat and fair.
7- Stopping the Corruption
Corruption can be solved by creating systems and professional processes, by applying strict laws and penalties that will make the people who take or give a bribes think twice before doing so. A separate entity with authority should audit the work of all institutes. There should be immediate judgment and severe punishment for the corruption, which should keep people from getting into the world of corruption.
8- Developing the Traditional and NonTraditional Education
Education in Iraq was un it’s golden years between 1970-1984. Afterwards, it began declining due to wars and the bad economic situation of Iraq. Education and knowledge is key for the progress of any nation. The government should allocate a bigger share of its budget to focus on the traditional education system and to boost the non-traditional education system. This can be done by supporting the private sector to develop private institutes, training courses, seminars and workshops. All levels of education from the fundamentals of kindergarten, to the advanced quantum physics courses at the university, are important stepping-stones in development. Each class should be taught with the overarching goals to increase the quality of life and economic improvement.
Education can stop terrorist groups from gaining strength, trains doctors and scientists to research and cure diseases. Studies have shown that the more years children attend school, the healthier that nation’s economy becomes. Also we need to inject our traditional education with a dose of financial education as our schools and universities systems does not teach our students anything about money or the real-world after they finish the school education so we need to change our teaching materials and methods to help preparing our new generations to understand how money works to be able to succeed and flourish in the real-world.
9- Independence of Justice
Justice and laws are the major requirement for developing any nation. It is required to be independent and not influenced by the party or power that’s leading the country. It also ensures that justice and fair laws are applied to all people.
The establishment of independent courts that rule on international laws, such as, DIFC court and judicial authority in Dubai to create a unique legislative system consistent with English Common law. This will allow the creation of a set of civil and commercial laws and regulations for governing financial services. It will also allow for a complete code of law governing financial services regulation. As part of its autonomy, it will have an independent judicial system that will be responsible for the independent administration and enforcement of justice and exclusive jurisdiction over all civil and commercial disputes arising within the county and or relating to bodies and companies registered in the Iraq. This will include a platform to access regional wealth and investment opportunities, zero percent tax rate on income and profits Increased Penalty And Immediate Action For Crime and 100 percent foreign ownership, this practice will encourage the foreign companies and investors to invest in Iraq and develop the private sector to boost our economy.
10- Health Care
Our public health care system lacks many simple international standards from proper hospitals, equipment, procedures, health insurance and many other basic healthcare requirements. The public health care system should be strengthened to run like a private organization because its fundamental to developing our nation and boosting its wellbeing levels.
11- Diversification of Economy Resources
Over 90% of the Iraqi economy is depending on the Oil sector, which is a huge mistake. It ties the entire economy of a country to a resource that is vanishing over time. There is a need to invest and diversify into other sectors such as, tourism (specifically the religious tourism) as it will create a large diversified income, develop the private sector with laws to support the private and foreign investments in the country by building a proper platform, creating free zones, developing ports to boost the trade and transportation industry, creating an international financial center, developing the solar energy. innovation should be highly encouraged/supported with minimum government/bureaucratic interference, and improving the industrial and agricultural sector.
This scope of economic development plan includes the process and policies by which a nation improves the economic, political, and social well-being of its people – learning & education, diversification of resources and income of the country that will lead to generating more investment, innovation and jobs.
Please share with us in a comment below the other Priorities & Measures that you think will Develop the Iraqi Nation and Help in Rebuilding its State more Efficiently.