Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Funding Directorates Instead

I apologize for the lack of posts yesterday. I spent the day in News Brunswick interviewing Professor Eric Davis for the EPIC Ground Truth Project. The published interview will focus primarily on the economic dimension of the conflict, examining how a bottom-up economic development strategy is essential for peace in Iraq. I also asked a few questions on Iraqi identity and democratization, the answers to which will be made available exclusively on this blog as soon as the tapes are transcribed. On to the post:
In the past I've discussed the problems plaguing efforts to train and equip Iraqi security forces; many lack resources to function on a basic level and misplaced loyalties abound. Each time corruption has played a central role. Recently, the London-based Arabic daily Azzaman published a story explaining that the Defense Ministry as a whole has become engulfed by corruption. A top official in the ministry is quoted as saying that Iraqi security forces are finding it impossible to get the weapons and vehicles needed. Nor can they get their wages. Thus corruption at the higher levels of the ministry is begetting further corruption at the lower levels, as Iraqi security forces pledge loyalty to militias or criminal syndicates which can provide for their families.

Unfortunately, corruption is not unique to the Defense Ministry. Most of the national ministries suffer from it, most notably the Ministry for Public Health which is controlled almost exclusively by Al Sadr's men. (You may remember the horror stories of Sunnis being killed by militiamen as they lay in their hospital beds.) And yet, despite their being notoriously corrupt, most foreign aid is channeled through these ministries where it stands little chance of being spent appropriately. What's the alternative? Well a better plan would be to send funds directly to Iraq's directorates which operate on a provincial level. These directorates are staffed mostly by small numbers of technocrats as opposed to the numerous bureaucrats of the national ministries and are less prone to corruption. These directorates would also be able to appropriate the funds in a way that would prioritize the specific needs of their province. It is certainly not going to solve all of Iraq's problems with corruption, but it is a step in the right direction. One that would take little effort on the part of the US and aid organizations. So why isn't anyone talking about this?

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