Wed, Nov 09, 2005 - Page 9 News List

Widening wealth gap fueling insurrection in Iraq

For the poor and the powerless who have few skills to find gainful employment, democracy and human rights mean nothing

By Amal Kashf al-Ghitta

We must not use no-work jobs to disguise an army of unemployed. We must give people jobs that allow them to make a contribution to rebuilding the country.

By nature, every individual seeks to prove himself as a useful person in his or her society. But the culture that Saddam created convinced Iraqis that political connections are the only way to gain authority, money and knowledge.

Overcoming such sentiments will take time and a vibrant economy, which means that a new Iraqi government must have limited power, allowing the private sector to grow while encouraging widespread understanding of democracy and human rights.

Religious groups are ready to contribute to this process. We can also rehabilitate the technocrats who served under Saddam, so that they, too, have a chance to serve their country.

Last but not least, we must provide loans to poor families to help them build a respectable life.

Above all, the government must spare no effort in convincing poor Iraqis of the value of democracy and freedom, and how important the constitution is in realizing their aspirations for a better life. This will not be easy to achieve in a country where many people consider breaking the law an act of heroism.

But we Iraqis have also learned that power should not be concentrated in a few hands, and that establishing justice requires fighting all forms of corruption. If the constitution is to operate as the guarantee of democracy, freedom and security, poor Iraqis must learn to make that fight their own.

Amal Kashf al-Ghitta is a member of the Iraq National Assembly.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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