With calls for decentralization resurfacing, what would Basra gain if it became a region?
Shafaq News/ The governorate of Basra is making a renewed push to form a region akin to the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) – a move that might undermine the central government's power over the engine of Iraq's economy.
The campaign comes as Basrawis grow increasingly impatient with Baghdad, which has delayed implementing satisfying revenue-sharing provisions for Basra that "has countless natural resources, but does not benefit from them," Fatima, a citizen of Basra told Shafaq News Agency."
"Instead, they all go to the federal government. That is why we demand the establishment of the Basra Region."
Economic Capital of Arab Countries
Its share of the homeland is just "saline water, power outage, and lack of services," said Ihab describing Basra to Shafaq News Agency, "Basra needs to be a region in order to enjoy its wealth. Moreover, Basra's oil contributes to nearly 90% of Iraq's budget. Yet, the governorate benefits nothing from exporting four million oil barrels daily."
"If the Basra Region is established, the governorate might enjoy better services, and as a result, its living and economic conditions will improve. The rate of unemployment will also decline. Moreover, Basra will be an important economic region for Iraq and the entire world by properly managing its ports, airports, oil, and other mineral resources. Basra has the potential to become the economic capital of the Arab world," he said.
The best solution
Shafaq News Agency was informed by MP Rafik al-Salihi that "Due to the federal government's underestimation of the governorate, establishing the Basra Region was demanded. More than 95% of Iraq's bounties come from Basra, the most recent of which was the financing of the Gulf 25 championship. The governorate's condition would be greatly enhanced if the funds obtained from its ports were invested there, as it is the region with the most abundant oil resources."
"In light of this disregard for Basra and prejudice against the people's rights, we believe that the best solution is to turn it into a region, a constitutionally guaranteed right, so that its people can enjoy their rights, including the conclusion of special agreements to establish power and desalination plants," al-Salihi continued.
He added, "It is also possible to make deals with foreign companies to invest groundwater in the cultivation of Basra's desert, as well as to build factories that will help to employ the governorate residents and end unemployment, as well as to build housing units. Therefore, we demand that the Basra Region be established similarly to the Kurdistan Region so it can exercise its rights using its own resources."
"Basra has all the economic ingredients to be a region, providing that political and social conditions and appropriate legislation are in place for its establishment," said Sami Obaid al-Tamimi, head of the economics department at Basra University.
"Basra owns two-thirds of the country's oil and gas reserves, it is the only maritime port overlooking the Gulf, has a port, and earns customs tariffs from neighboring countries. It also has a promising agricultural and tourism sector, in addition to human resources," al-Tamimi explained.
"If the region is established, it will positively affect Basra's residents' economic and living conditions because the resources will be solely theirs. In addition, the powers to establish economic and other projects will be within the region's powers, and finally, the bureaucracy, red tape, and central complexities will be eliminated."
In 2019, the Basra Provincial Council voted by an absolute majority to transform it into a region.
Following the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, there were calls to form the Basra Region. However, those efforts faltered mainly because the federal government refused to proceed with the decentralization measures.
To establish an autonomous region, a request to do so must be submitted to the local government and then to the federal government, which would hand it over to the Independent High Electoral Commission. Then, the commission would hold a referendum for the governorate's residents to decide.