The Iraqi government and the inverted pyramid of needs

The Iraqi government and the inverted pyramid of needs
Abadi's achievements in his first 100 days in office are meaningless to most Iraqis, who crave security, stability and an end to violence.
4 min read
03 Jan, 2015
Abadi's 'achievements' have little real effect on Iraq's citizens [Anadolu]

In many of his speeches, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi implicitly acknowledges that the past ten years of Iraqi politics have been extremely bad.

He has acknowledged that the country descended into the pits of sectarian and ethnic infighting, fanning the flames of civil war in cities where people of all sects and ethnicities had previously lived together in harmony.

I do not want to bore the reader with the nostalgia many Iraqis feel. Neither do we not want to argue with those who claim that good intentions alone are the reasons behind Abadi's talk of an "existential challenge", and of "a road map", of "liberating state decisions from individualistic tendencies" and "radical structural change".

However, after a hundred days in office, we want to uncover the meanings behind Abadi's words and what he intends to do when he commits himself to what he describes as "putting Iraq on the path that is the foundation of a political process" - which, in other words, means relying on the sectarian allocations on which the "political process" was built.

Abadi's actions contradict his words when he says that eliminating sectarianism from political life is the first step towards reform.

Abadi contradicts himself. He says that eliminating sectarianism from political life is the first step in any reform, and to development in the country.

He describes it as an insurance against the fragmentation and rupturing of Iraq's social fabric. He says citizenship is the alternative to other entrenched allegiances, and that a national identity transcending sectarianism is the pillar of reform and change - and social, economic, cultural and political development.

However, when he gets into the details what he means, he prioritises the preservation of the rights of every citizen, group and community. In other words, he means following the existing formulae of sectarian and ethnic allocations even in the most junior government jobs, and representing each group in the civil service proportionally.

Identity clash

Iraqi citizens will be continue to be identified by primal identities, whether Shia, Sunni, Christian, Yazidi, or belonging to this or that tribe or from this or that city, to get a government job.

Further, it might mean a person could be refused a job based on that identity. We know of several cases where people have been refused employment in certain government institutions become of their sectarian affiliation, and some people have even resorted to changing their names because their names prevented them from exercising their rights.

I even know of a person who changed his name from Omar to Ammar to obtain what should have been his by right.

I will not argue with those who believe that Abadi has good intentions in proposing "a long series of change and reform".

Unfortunately, this series is based on an inversion of the pyramid of needs of Iraqi citizens. Abadi considers "issuing a code of conduct for the Cabinet" and "dissolving the Office of the Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces" and "discontinuing the use of titles" and discontinuing the "display of pictures [of the Prime Minister and other figures] and banners in the streets, public places and ministries" as the primary achievements of his government in 100 days in power.

The inverted pyramid

Abadi knows that seven million Iraqi citizens live under the poverty line, while two million are internally displaced.

I hope that Abadi, an educated graduate of a renowned British university, will revisit the US psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of human needs.

Only then will Abadi realise the average poor citizen does not care about the cabinet's code of conduct, nor the cabinet at all for that matter - as long as he is unable to provide his family with sufficient food, medicine, clean water and electricity.

Citizens do not care about his "achievements" as long as they lack security and are unable to attain their basic rights to a free and dignified life and equal treatment under the law.

Abadi knows that seven million Iraqi citizens live below the poverty line, two million are internally displaced and six million live outside Iraq, searching for the security they have lost in their country.

Abadi should also realise that discontinuing the use of titles and the display of pictures will not stop the ruling political class from stealing public funds and enjoying lavish, unjustified privileges.

We discover through Abadi's rhetoric that he has inverted the pyramid when he describes his government's achievements as "mature priorities".

However, poverty and unemployment, security and the criminalisation of sectarianism are not treated as priorities -as the conditions for addressing these issues have not yet matured.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.