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Corruption Took $320b From Iraq’s Economy Since 2003

The reconstruction of Iraq’s infrastructure devastated by the war would cost $100 billion.The reconstruction of Iraq’s infrastructure devastated by the war would cost $100 billion.

Leading up to Iraq’s parliamentary elections on Saturday, on the minds of citizens casting their ballots may well be the over $320 billion missing from the country’s economy, the Commission on Transparency of the Iraqi Parliament said in a report out Thursday.

Buying jets for $13 million each when they actually cost less than $1 million is just one of the examples of how the billions disappeared, the report said, Aljazeera reported.

“Our financial experts estimate from 2003 until now, more than $320 billion went missing and is untraceable. Most of this money went through corrupt contracts,” Rahim al-Daraji, a member of the government’s transparency commission, said.

That’s a massive amount, having in mind that the reconstruction of Iraq’s infrastructure that was devastated by the war would cost $100 billion, according to Reuters.

How exactly did hundreds of billions of dollars vanish though? According to al-Daraji, Iraq lacks any investigative body that could hold the government accountable. The “unprotected money”, he says, has allowed the theft.

Sarmed Jamil, a grocer in a Baghdad market, told Al Jazeera you can tell corruption from the very contracts the government has with neighboring countries like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “This is where corruption is apparent. Government officials make money from the contracts with those countries,” he said.

Experts say it’s too late to reclaim the money, according to the report.

Political analyst, Hashim al-Hashemi said, “No one can eradicate corruption. It runs deep in the Iraqi institutions but whoever the new prime minister is, could make a fresh start that could prevent more corruption.”

A few days ago, the Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri said in an interview with the Jordanian newspaper “al Ghad” that after the fall of Saddam’s regime, Iraq has ceased to grow. There are no projects for economic development and reconstruction of infrastructure.

He said that the reason for this is corruption, and the war on terror, which required the mobilization of all resources of the state.

In 2017 alone, over 2,000 arrest warrants were issued for corruption with 290 suspects currently being prosecuted in the courts.

The country is still facing massive security issues since the last election in 2014 that saw the current Prime Minister Haider al Abadi come to power. Over 2.5 million Iraqis remain displaced after years of conflict following the United States invasion in 2003 and the recent conflict with the so-called Islamic State.

Iraq ranked 169 out of 180 countries in the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index scoring 18 out of 100.

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