Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- Now that the problem of unemployment and the difficulties associated with it have grown worse, and because unemployment is considered the main reason behind the acts of violence from which the country is suffering, the Iraqi Executive Council has tasked one of its members, namely, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, to prepare a paper or study that includes solutions to this problem. In fact, Al-Hashimi, who is the secretary-general of the Iraqi Islamic Party, has submitted such a paper to the Executive Council.
Asharq Al-Awsat interviewed Al-Hashimi to learn more about the main suggestions included in the paper. Al-Hashimi explained: “The government’s legal position is extremely weak. According to the Constitution, the government is obliged to pay each Iraqi citizen his/her share of the oil and gas revenues, because these belong to all the Iraqi people. Consequently, the government is at risk of being held legally accountable if it refuses to pay citizens that to which they are rightfully entitled. An ordinary citizen could file a lawsuit against the government over this.” In his paper, the Iraqi vice president noted that “the problem of unemployment should have been handled a long time ago in a methodical way, mainly because it is linked, on the one hand, to the phenomenon of violence and crime and, on the other, to the dire need to improve the living conditions of ordinary citizens.” He added: “This responsibility falls within the scope of the government’s responsibility.” He said that he “presented the paper under discussion in an effort to resolve all unemployment-related problems once and for all.” Concerning whether or not the paper urges the government to intervene in economic affairs, a move that would contradict the market mechanism philosophy that was adopted in 2003 following the overthrow of the former regime, Al-Hashimi said: “The activation the Iraqi economy requires embracing the guided economy approach. However, this approach should be adopted for a limited period of time, until the Iraqi economy recovers and undergoes restructuring.” He added: “I am against a firmly guided economy and an excessive degree of centralization. On the contrary, I prefer market economy in the long run, yet with a guiding and effective government role. Otherwise, chaos will prevail, the national economy might face sudden and strong quakes, and the gap between the poor and the rich will become deeper, thus harming social justice, which I consider unacceptable.”
Al-Hashimi believes that “the government’s financial situation is fine and it can afford to pay the proposed social aid, until the unemployed find suitable jobs.” He added: “I understand the responsibility that falls on the government, which must ensure a safe and respectable life for citizens. This cannot be achieved except through financial assistance for the unemployed, given in the form of social security. If ordinary citizens are incapable of finding a suitable job and if the government refuses to offer them help and assistance until they find a suitable job, then to whom shall these citizens turn?” He continued: “Would the government be showing any sense of fairness or responsibility if it ignores its role in protecting its citizens and lets them starve to death? Or would that push them toward crime and violence in an effort to secure their livelihood?” He continued: “Actually, the government’s legal position is extremely weak. According to the Constitution, the government is obliged to pay each Iraqi citizen his/her share of the oil and gas revenues, because these belong to all the Iraqi people. Consequently, the government is at risk of being held legally accountable if it refuses to pay citizens that to which they are rightfully entitled. An ordinary citizen could file a lawsuit against the government over this.”
Concerning his shift of interest to the economic aspect, Al-Hashimi said: “First of all, I have a higher degree in economy and I am particularly fond of economics. Moreover, I have a limitless desire to serve poor citizens in need. I am extremely concerned about Iraq’s current and future economic situation. Therefore, in the near future, I will present a number of studies that deal with financial, economic, monetary, and investment policies, now that everyone near and far has become certain that Iraq’s economy is not pursuing the right path.” He added: “If it were not for the sharp rise in the price of crude oil in the world market that has provided the government with an unexpected budget surplus, Iraq would have faced major economic problems.”
For his part, Dr Barham Salih, Iraqi deputy prime minister, greatly valued Al-Hashimi’s paper and said that “the cabinet and its economic committee will study these proposals.” Meanwhile, a source from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the ministry has not officially received this study.” He added: “The ministry has encouraged and still encourages every Iraqi expert, researcher, or official to present studies that aim to put an end to injustice or to end the suffering of any specific group in Iraqi society, particularly the unemployed.” He said: “However, certain procedures must be followed in order to embrace such studies. These procedures are in an effort to examine the feasibility of each study by presenting them to the ministry’s council of experts, which in turn refers them to the ministry’s council and then to the minister, who presents them to the cabinet to approve their inclusion within the plans and mechanisms adopted by ministry departments.” He added: “So far, the ministry has not officially received Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi’s study and it cannot be approved as a study, plan, or paper before it is officially received by the ministry.” He said: “After examining its feasibility, the study will then be implemented.”