Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Many developing countries are mired in dated bureaucratic practice and tangled in red tape, but of all of them, Iraq can perhaps least afford to see its crucial post-war development suffocated under mounds of paperwork.
What hangs in the balance is nothing less than whether oil-rich Iraq can emerge from years of war as a prosperous, democratic and secure state — or whether it sinks back into the bloodshed that almost tore it apart.
A love of official stamps, seals and documents in triplicate is by no means only an Iraqi phenomenon. Receiving shipments at Cairo airport, for example, involves one queue to buy a ticket, another to receive it and a third to get it laminated.
But if Iraq is to rebuild its crumbling infrastructure, develop its oil fields and find jobs for legions of restless unemployed — who have easy access to guns — it must make doing business and governing as smooth as possible.
Would-be foreign investors are likely to steer clear if Iraqis themselves find the country’s bureaucracy a nightmare.
Born in Iraq, I was technically eligible to vote in recent provincial elections, but a trip to a government office to apply for a required residency card was a shocking reminder of the mountain of bureaucracy Iraqis must climb.
Hundreds of people shuffled from room to room down long, dim corridors with unmarked doors, clutching sheaves of faded paperwork. A crowd would clamour at a door whenever an official turned up, but otherwise many sat on the floor despondent.
Some looked like they had been there for days.
In one office, two officials let people in one at a time. Noise and paper-waving from the crowd outside erupted each time the door opened.
“Fake. Fake. This one’s okay, take that to the district office and apply there,” said one official, lazily flicking forged identification cards back at a woman before advising her to go and queue at yet another government building.
Far from instilling order, the bureaucracy has fostered an industry in forged documents and fixers versed in byzantine official process, who can apply on your behalf for a hefty fee. Some of that money probably goes to officials. Iraq came second to last out of 180 countries in corruption watchdog Transparency International’s 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Meanwhile, roads remain unpaved, sewage disposal is abysmal and millions have no access to decent housing and healthcare, partly because bureaucracy has made it hard to execute Iraq’s budget.
For journalists, the insistence on long-winded procedure is maddening.
Recent Reuters requests to meet senior Iraqi officials were rejected because the envelope had not been stamped correctly, or because it did not have a randomly generated reference number.
Many officials insist on lengthy honorifics and encourage obsequious preambles to questions, which eats away at press conference time and takes up newspaper space.
The leads of many Gulf newspaper articles, for example, consist of little but long-winded honorifics.
“Noble Leader, Master of the Seven Sand Dunes, who Blesses us with his Beneficience, Sheikh xxxx of xxxx bin xxxx abdul xxx met …” That’s only a mild exaggeration.
Democracy has been touted as a way for Iraqis to reconcile after years of war, and last month they voted in local polls. Incumbents fared badly, and the result was seen as a vote against years of perceived corruption and incompetence.
The pressure is now on Iraq’s new crop of officials to cut the red tape and show democracy works.
The last time Iraq held provincial elections four years ago, the sole question haunting people’s minds, mine included, was whether or not to venture out to vote, risking life and limb to make our way to polling places as Iraq slid into civil war.
Then, suicide and car bomb attacks were close to their peak, as sectarian violence surged between the Shi’ite majority and Sunnis who were disempowered after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
BASRA – It may not be the end-game Britain was hoping for when it ventured into Iraq, but it’s the end of the game nonetheless.
By the end of next May, almost exactly six years after 42,000 British troops joined the U.S.-led invasion and overthrew Saddam Hussein, Prime Minister Gordon Brown says Britain’s remaining 4,100 troops will be out of Iraq and his country’s role in the war over.
from The Great Debate:
Salim Adil is an author for Global Voices Online, a website that aggregates, curates, and translates news and views from the global blogosphere. The opinions expressed are his own and those of the bloggers he quotes.
Will this become one of those moments in history? In years to come will you recount to your grand children where you were when an Iraqi journalist, Montather Al-Zeidi, threw his shoes at the president of the United States? For me I was at home just getting my kids ready to sleep when my father called me insisting that I simply had to switch on the television immediately.
Not one but two shoes thrown at the president of the most powerful nation on earth! I will never forget those two or three seconds as those leather shoes — size 10s according to U.S.President George W. Bush — spun through the air, missing the president’s head by inches.
At news conferences in the Middle East, it is common for some less professional and obsequious journalists to leap up and sing the praises of a dignitary at the podium. But when Baghdadiya television journalist Muntather al-Zaidi lurched forward and threw the first shoe, I and everyone else in the room was stunned. There was silence, broken only by the shoe thrower calling Bush a dog. And then another shoe flew, and pandemonium broke loose.
By Waleed Ibrahim
Before making a recent speech, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said the following: “I was given a specific time in which to talk, so I have to be brief. I was informed that there are other people speaking after me.”
I was shocked. Did I just hear an Iraqi leader sound and act as if he were
an ordinary citizen who had to make way for others? Maybe he was joking, but he looked serious. Could this really be an Iraqi leader who wasn’t going to pontificate on and on to his heart’s content?
On my day off when I grabbed the remote control, my
22-year-old brother yelled “No! Do not change the channel!”
My brother is interested mostly in sports and movies and
doesn’t care at all about politics. But for once he wanted to
watch the session of parliament.
By Aws Qusay
I’ve long since told my family to stop phoning me in a panic
every evening when they don’t know where I am.
I’m not dead, I’m in traffic.
I live just 15 km from the Reuters office in Baghdad. But
nowadays, with the Iraqi capital divided into countless
mini-cities by concrete slabs and roadblocks, my commute across
town usually takes two and a half hours, sometimes three.
Traffic barely moves at all.
The last time I stayed up all night was in Baghdad when U.S. warplanes bombed the city in an overnight raid that announced the start of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Last night I was up all night by choice. I wasn’t covering the U.S. presidential elections but I joined the millions of people across the world who were anxious to know who will be taking charge of America — and whether they really would presage change. For anyone from and involved in the Middle East this is no small question.
The Americans have cast their vote for change all right; they have voted clearly for a new America, for a change of direction. People across the Middle East have been eager to see change in America, not just a change of personality but a real change of policy and vision.
I still remember what my father-in-law told me that fateful day in 2003, as we sat riveted by the sight of American soldiers on television pulling down the iconic statue of Saddam Hussein from its pedestal in a Baghdad square.
My father-in-law, whose brother had fled Iraq after being jailed for a few days after Baathists took the power in 1969 and who was never a Saddam supporter, was reflective.