Tuesday 28 August 2018

KRG launches online scheme to cut bureaucracy, improve transparency

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Rudaw) – Bureaucracy will be cut and government institutions subject to greater transparency under a new online service unveiled by KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani on Tuesday.

“Our objective behind the launch of this project is to speed up the good services the government provides to people and with this step forward, the government will increase transparency to the people about the government’s mechanisms of implementing its works,” Talabani said during a ceremony launching the scheme.

Maddening red tape will be cut thanks to a new online ‘Service Portal’ which will allow the public to access public services remotely – without spending hours upon hours queuing at government offices.

“It contains all the services, private or public, provided by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to the people directly or indirectly which concern their daily lives,” according to the portal website.

Users can access information on public services such as water, electricity, traffic, and security and complete administrative tasks such as license applications, company registrations, and paying taxes.

“We have not come just to talk about a portal the government has launched, but a new phase in relations between people and the government, an overall fresh review to the mechanism of giving services to the people, so our people understand that they are a priority,” Talabani said.

“Today, the government started to provide 425 services to the people... daily transactions happening between the government and people at governmental institutions,” he added.

Iraq is among the most corrupt countries in the world – a culture that also blights the Kurdistan Region. Many government institutions remain opaque. Moving these services online could help reduce abuse of the system and help equality of access.

The Kurdistan Region’s economy has slowly improved in recent months thanks to a gradual improvement in relations between Erbil and Baghdad.

A dispute over independent oil sales in 2014 saw the government of Nouri al-Maliki cut the Region’s share of the Iraqi federal budget to zero. This was followed by a crippling financial crisis in 2016, forcing the KRG to impose austerity measures. Many civil servants went unpaid for years.

This was shadowed by a costly war against ISIS. The final blow came in October 2017 when the federal government took over the Kirkuk oilfields – halving the KRG’s oil income overnight.

Baghdad has technically restored the KRG’s share of the federal budget, although it has been cut from 17 percent to just 12.5.

Stalled infrastructure projects are now gradually resuming.

“Due to key reforms, the government normalizing Erbil-Baghdad relations and relations with foreign countries, and the economic recovery, the government has resumed a number of projects that had been sabotaged” by the loss of funding, Talabani added.