Friday, November 27, 2009

KRG: We need electricity!

Mariwan Faydullah Salihi

Since two years now, Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministry of Electricity, has promised citizens on several occasions to provide electricity 24 hours a day. Nothing of this has been implemented as of now.

It is winter now, which means temperatures in this mountainous area can get very low and days become shorter. During these dark periods, people need heaters to keep themselves warm and power to keep their lights on. But with the continuous cut of power, especially during the commencement of the cold winter season, this is hard to achieve.

What surprises people most is that the KRG, now for almost 18 years, can not provide its citizens enough electricity power. Moreover, since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the removal of international sanctions (1991-2003) on the country, the Kurdistan Region has barely to none, seen any violence or acts of terrorism, as it is the case in other areas of Iraq. So why does our government not provide us with electricity, as it is a vital human requirement? This is, in the opinions of many – including me- , a violation of basic human rights.

Kurdistan Region is not a poor region any more, so we have to look at this problem in a very serious way. Kurdistan already exports oil and has become an investment gate to the rest of Iraq, receiving billions of US dollars each year. And if this is not enough, this region of around 4-5 million inhabitants, receives annually 17% of Iraq's total budget, more than enough to see wide-spread construction and prosperity, just like the Arab Gulf States. Our Government, as we speak, still mostly relies on the private sector, including the vital electricity sector. The recently opened gas-fuelled electricity plant in Erbil was not built by the KRG, but rather through the private sector. What a shame, I should say. What happens to the billions of dollars the government annually collects? If most projects (schools, hotels, shopping malls, hospitals, etc.) are built by the private sector and foreign investments, what does our own Government provide then?

Enough is enough; people need electricity as they need water and food to survive. I know that the electricity sector has improved in recent years, but it's going too slow and problems still occur each day. How can we become part of the modern world when our country and its citizens don't have enough electricity to keep their lights on, watch TV, keep themselves warm and cook their food? Young people, like me, go to schools, universities or work every morning without adequate electricity power. How can we become part of a civilized world when our basic rights are denied? Since almost two months now, when waking up in the morning around 6 or 7 a.m., suddenly the power cuts for several hours. How am I supposed to take a hot shower then, or dress up?

I don't want to sound too critic against our Government, but honest is honest. The KRG has done a lot for us, which we should be thankful about. But still, a lot of money has been waist on unnecessary projects and it is time to put the electricity sector on priority. No one here wants a 20-year electricity master plan (recently announced during a conference in Erbil) to solve our issues. We need quick and immediate solutions right away. It is winter, for Gods sake, people are freezing!

I recently returned from abroad with my family, living all my life outside Kurdistan. Electricity cuts like these are not civilized welcome-signs for people returning from the diaspora or foreigners visiting our region. I would discourage anyone to visit Kurdistan or to invest in it, unless the government finds immediate solutions (with its budget!) to the bad and worsening electricity sector.

As I am typing this on my laptop, the electricity has been cut for almost four hours and our house has become like a gigantic refrigerator…I can barely move my fingers, because of the cold.

Wait a second…electricity is back again! I think I am going to host a huge party tonight because of my happiness. Thank you KREG (Kurdistan Regional Electricity Government) for bringing back power again, but please keep it on until I finish my assignments.

May God bless Iraq and Kurdistan this winter!