Monday, March 17, 2014

Iraq Shows Improvement In Poverty Levels, But Major Hurdles Continue

 
Despite Iraq’s vast natural resource wealth the country suffers from high rates of poverty. The United Nations just released data on Iraq’s battle with that problem. It provided statistics comparing 2007 with 2011. Those are important dates because they are during and after the civil war. Obviously while there was widespread fighting in the country poverty could not be combatted and likely got worse with the loss of jobs and displacement. Therefore comparing those two years showed how much progress or lack thereof that the government made going from conflict to a relatively peaceful period.

Between the two years 11 of Iraq’s 18 provinces saw a decline in their poverty rates, while seven of them went up. Sulaymaniya was by far the best. It went from 1.8% of the population living below the poverty level of $2.50 per day to just 0.3%. Dohuk and Baghdad saw a moderate decreases as well from 5.8% in 2007 to 4.9% in 2011 and 7.5% to 2.8% respectively. Governorates that had high poverty and dropped to a lower level were Najaf that went from 15.4% to 8.1% and Salahaddin, which had the largest decline of any province going from 27.8% to 6.9%. Other provinces also saw declines, but were still over 10%. Those included Babil, 25.4% to 10.9%, Diyala, 18% to 10.3%, Karbala, 26.2% to 11.4%, Wasit, 27.8% to 17.1%, Qadisiyah, 38.2% to 19.2%, and Muthanna, 38.2% to 29.4%. The governorates that were going in the opposite direction were Basra that jumped from 3.3% to 16.1%, Ninewa that went from 13.3% to 26%, and Dhi Qar, 20.9% to 37.8%. Anbar, 12.2% to 12.5%, Irbil, 1.5% to 2%, Kirkuk 4.1% to 4.2%, and Maysan, 12.6% to 16.4%, saw only minor increases. Without further data it is impossible to tell why the poverty rates changed. Salahaddin for example dropped 20.9% the most of any province. One could speculate that poverty went down there because it was largely cleared of insurgents, but then Anbar, which was another militant base barely changed staying at just over 12%. On the other hand Basra, which is the home to the majority of Iraq’s oil and signed deals with foreign companies in 2009 saw a large increase of 12.8% from 2007 to 2011. The changes were not related to the provincial development plans either. Dhi Qar for instance spent 75% of its capital budget in 2010, which goes towards investment and yet its poverty rate increased from 2007 to 2011. 


Poverty In Iraq 2007 To 2011
Province
2007
2011
Difference
Anbar
12.2%
12.5%
+0.3%
Babil
25.4%
10.9%
-14.5%
Baghdad
7.5%
2.8%
-4.7%
Basra
3.3%
16.1%
+12.8%
Dhi Qar
20.9%
37.8%
+16.9%
Diyala
18%
10.3%
-7.7%
Dohuk
5.8%
4.9%
-0.9%
Irbil
1.5%
2%
+ 0.5%
Karbala
26.2%
11.4%
-14.8%
Kirkuk
4.1%
4.2%
+0.1%
Maysan
12.6%
16.4%
+3.8%
Muthanna
38.2%
29.4%
-8.8%
Najaf
15.4%
8.1%
-7.3%
Ninewa
13.3%
26%
+12.7%
Qadisiyah
38.2%
19.2%
-19%
Salahaddin
27.8%
6.9%
-20.9%
Sulaymaniya
1.8%
0.3%
-1.5%
Wasit
27.8%
17.1%
-10.7%


When broken down by region it is apparent that Kurdistan is the most well off part of Iraq, while the south is the poorest. Sulaymaniya, 0.3%, Irbil, 2%, and Dohuk, 4.9%, had three of the five lowest poverty rates in Iraq. In comparison, Dhi Qar, 37.8%, Muthanna, 29.4%, Qadisiyah, 19.2%, Wasit, 17.1%, Maysan, 16.4%, and Basra, 16.1%, were all at the bottom. Many Sunnis have been complaining that their areas have been neglected by the central government, but when it comes to poverty at least Sunni areas do quite well with the exception of Ninewa, 26%, which has the third highest poverty rate, and that is a mixed province anyway.

Despite Iraq’s progress half of its provinces are still above the national poverty rate of 11%. Some of those at the bottom such as Dhi Qar and Muthanna have two to three times that level. At the same time, many provinces are moving in the right direction, and there are seven governorates that have less than a 10% poverty level. More importantly, four of those are outside of Kurdistan, showing that the rest of the country can deal with the problem effectively in some cases. More research needs to be done into each province to find the reasons why some are progressing, and some are getting worse. Unfortunately, Baghdad’s main solution to the problem is to hire more government workers. That is a highly inefficient and costly measure to take, but plays well with the political class that are used to socialist measures and can use the employees to expand their patronage networks. Much more effective policy needs to be created to solve this nagging problem.   

SOURCES

Joint Analysis Unit, “Anbar Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Babil Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Baghdad Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Basrah Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Dahuk Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Diyala Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Erbil Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Kerbala Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Kirkuk Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Missan Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Muthanna Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Najaf Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Ninewa Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Qadissiya Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Salah al-Din Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Sulaymaniyah Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Thi-Qar Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Wassit Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014

No comments: