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Iraq’s next battle: corruption

Iraq’s former industry minister, Mohammed Alderajy, is brutally honest about the country’s culture of corruption and resistance to reform. The banking sector is far from immune. He says a new attitude is needed if Iraq is to improve its prospects for reconstruction.

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Mohammed Alderajy, former member of parliament for Baghdad

At an early July conference in London aimed at promoting investment in Iraq, Mohammed Alderajy stood before a roomful of businessmen and public officials from Iraq and the UK. 

Much had been said in the preceding talks about Iraq’s famously systemic corruption: investors were afraid their money would go toward paying bribes and that, because of nepotism, unfit individuals would be put in charge of projects they had funded.

Alderajy, a two-time Iraqi minister and former member of parliament for Baghdad, wanted to address that issue. 

“We hear [that] every time we attend conferences about corruption,” he said. “I’m not denying that.”

But he added, in defence of his country’s government: “The corruption is everywhere, but at certain levels. The transparency in Iraqi media and the new democracy in Iraq allows a lot of talk about corruption. But, to be honest with you, the only country in the Middle East that publishes its oil revenue on a website is Iraq. In other countries in the region, their people don’t know what they have.