Imagine Iraq without oil

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By Fatih Abdulsalam

Azzaman, January 14, 2014

Let us imagine that the national budget does not rely on oil revenues due to the depletion of oil wells or their closure for one reason or another.

What will become of Iraq if a case or scenario like this – which is not totally unlikely – becomes a reality? What significance the country will have within the regional or international framework and what type or standard of living its people will enjoy?

Not all countries have oil. Many countries in the world have no oil but are prosperous, advanced and affluent.

But Iraq will have no future, no life without oil and the reason is because it lacks an industrial or agricultural base that will enable it to last once its crude stops flowing.

Consumption and not production is what has characterizes Iraqi economy for decades. But the state of affairs has aggravated recently to the extent that the country’s budget today has no entry for hard cash earnings apart from oil royalties.

The problem is that the plans for the diversification of the economy have no strategic thinking behind them.

The planners and subsequent governments always have an excuse for their almost total reliance on one commodity and their failure to diversify the economy.

They have ready-made excuses – insecurity, instability and terrorism.

The planners forget the fact that a vibrant and diversified economy in which all abled people are involved and earn a decent living is one of the main factors for stability.

I am not saying it is easy to diversify the economy and put its millions of unemployed people to work. The path is long and difficult but we need a government that takes the first step.

But unfortunately, there does not seem to be a government or decision-making body that is seriously interested in lessening reliance on oil exports and breathing life into the hitherto stagnant sectors of the economy, namely services, industry and agriculture.