ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s newly-appointed Finance Minister, Fuad Hussein, on Tuesday said his ministry would work toward “balanced and transparent” relations between Erbil and Baghdad, stressing he would adopt a “new approach” in developing economic policies for the country’s reconstruction phase.
Hussein, a Kurd, made the comments during a meeting he held with the Ministry of Finance’s staff, shortly after he assumed his position in the new Iraqi government. Hussein was sworn in with 13 other ministers on Oct. 25.
The ministry has to “find and adopt a proper, balanced, and transparent relationship with the [Kurdistan] region,” Hussein told his staff, according to a statement summarizing the meeting.
The Kurdistan Region in 2014 witnessed a financial crisis, bringing multiple major infrastructure projects to a halt and significantly weakening the nascent private sector.
In addition to the strain on the Kurdistan Region’s finances during its costly war against the Islamic State (IS) and the subsequent humanitarian crisis, Baghdad slashed the agreed-upon budget share allotted to the region.
Hussein objected to the draft budget bill for 2019 and stressed the “need to reconsider” it, being mindful of demographics in the country to “reduce poverty and unemployment within the framework of a national development plan.”
He added that his ministry “seeks to adopt a new approach… to develop economic policy in the reconstruction and anti-corruption” phases of Iraq.
Hussein also stressed the need to “follow up with the situation in the province of Basra,” calling it “the main artery of the Iraqi economy.” Iraq’s finances are highly dependent on the Basra province, where most of the country’s oil is exported.
In the summer months, Basra saw intermittent, city-wide and deadly protests over, among other things, poor living standards, lack of electricity, and institutional corruption.
The city of Mosul should be given special care since it is part of Iraq’s significant “archeological and civilizational” heritage, Hussein also noted.
Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet will be facing a number of challenges, including, but not limited to, addressing the corruption in state institutions that have run rampant in the past 15 years.
Editing by Nadia Riva