Iraq’s October revolution
The people of Iraq have yearned for a revolution since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. While most episodes of protests in the country have fizzled out without yielding any result, this time the citizens might not settle for anything less than a complete change of system that has failed the Iraqi people. Ordinary Iraqis have poured onto streets and squares to protest against a long list of issues that have crippled the Middle Eastern nation already riddled with episodes of sectarian strife and terrorism. The people have nothing to lose other than their lives. And they are willing to do that too.
With the national level of discontent, now near the boiling point, the Adel Abdel Mahdi regime has limited options, and one of them is to pay attention to the demands of the young protesters, who are asking for nothing more than a fair system of government. They are asking for a system of government that is corruption-free, one that provides equal opportunities for all its citizens regardless of their sect. But instead of addressing corruption and the gap between the elite and ordinary citizens, Mahdi’s technocrat government has expressed no desire to push back against the system that faces rejection on the streets of Iraq. Instead, he continues to find new ways to protect the interests of Iraq’s elite.
But what more can one expect from a prime minister who came to power as a result of a compromise deal between the most powerful religious blocs in the country? He, more than any of his predecessors, is at the behest of those who installed him. Going by the trends in the Middle East, this uprising might be the revolution ordinary Iraqis have been waiting for, one that can make or break the war-torn nation. And at this point, Iraq’s survival can only be guaranteed if the regime pays attention to the voices on the streets.
Seeds of discontent
It really is about time the government came out with a clear strategy for creating employment and stimulating growth in the country. While a few may be able to appreciate how necessary efforts to consolidate Pakistan’s economy are – given the sordid state the successive shortsighted policies have left it in – the ruling party’s campaign promise of reducing poverty and inequality seems more far-fetched day by day.
Already, the government’s stringent ‘belt-tightening’ policy has had the unintended effect of shrinking the country’s job market. Faced with reduced economic power, the private sector has responded by slashing both jobs and salaries for those lucky enough to still be employed. Rising inflation has, on the other hand, reduced people’s purchasing power, creating what threatens to be a negative growth spiral.
For the common Pakistani, a recent report by a UK-based international human resource consultancy firm paints an even bleaker picture for next year. According to ECA International, unchecked inflation and rupee depreciation will result in a further decline in Pakistani workers’ real salaries in 2020. Depressingly, it points out that Pakistan will be the only country in the Asia-Pacific to see this decline – every other country in the region is set to witness a real salary increase more than double the global average.
What is discomforting is that so far, there has been no attempt by the government to articulate a vision to reverse this trend and to create more employment. All we have gotten so far are announcements of ambitious and rather impractical initiatives that one can only hope are not dead on arrival. The very least the government can do is make some practical promises. The country’s present trajectory will only lead to more public discontent. Given that the ruling party has encountered rough seas in its first year, one can only wonder how much pressure it will be able to sustain.