Pledging to 'Do Better' Amid Corruption in Iraq

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih delivers during an anti-corruption forum. i i

hide captionIraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih delivers a speech Jan. 3, 2007, during an anti-corruption forum in Baghdad.

Ali Al-Saadi-Pool/Getty Images
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih delivers during an anti-corruption forum.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih delivers a speech Jan. 3, 2007, during an anti-corruption forum in Baghdad.

Ali Al-Saadi-Pool/Getty Images

The Iraqi government is allocating billions for schools, clinics and roads, but corruption remains a major problem that impedes projects to rebuild the war-torn country, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih says.

Recently, seven northern Iraqi governors met in Tikrit with ministers from Baghdad to air their concerns, ranging from repairing water and sewer systems to the distribution of gasoline and fertilizer, according U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, who called the meeting.

Salih agrees the provinces need more help from the central government.

"In every meeting I go to with the provincial leaders, they always complain," he tells Steve Inskeep. "They always demand more and I think they deserve to get more."

Salih says allocations to the provinces for reconstruction have increased to $3.3 billion this year from $2 billion in 2007.

Corruption a 'Plague'

But widespread corruption makes it difficult to spending that money effectively, he says.

"Corruption is a major problem in this country, not surprisingly, because we have inherited a terrible culture from Saddam's era, and the lack of strong institutions ... the vacuum that happened after the war, and the chaos and so on," Salih says. "Insecurity has created an environment in which corruption is a major problem.

Iraq is instituting measures to combat corruption, he says, "but ... I don't want to be naive and say that we will eradicate corruption anytime soon. This is a plague, this is a cancer and it takes a lot of patience and deliberate work to deal with it."

In an NPR interview earlier this year, Salih said: "My government, the government of which I am part of, leaves a lot to be desired. A country like Iraq cannot be run like this."

Has Iraq missed an opportunity to rebuild?

"The people of Iraq demand a better performance from our government, of which I'm a party to, as I often remind myself," he says. "We need to do better. We definitely need to do better .... That does not mean things are failed and lost, no.

"It is a struggle between those who want to make this country a better place and those who want to keep it in a different [era]."

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