Rome Newsroom, Feb 17, 2021 / 06:05 am
Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq comes at a time when the country faces severe political, socioeconomic, and security challenges. The European Union’s ambassador to Iraq has called Iraq’s current overlapping crises “the perfect storm.”
Ambassador Martin Huth said Feb. 16 that Iraq is currently “facing multiple severe challenges compounded by both the COVID situation and an unstable regional environment.”
Huth addressed other diplomats as the keynote speaker at the virtual launch of a report on Iraq by the Atlantic Council: “Iraq: A Road Map for Recovery.”
"I would like to stress the absolute and overriding need for the Iraqi economy to reform and for Iraqi citizens to understand this need. We see this as a -- if not the -- priority for the country,” the EU ambassador said.
“And as Iraq is facing multiple political and socioeconomic crises, this may well be the last opportunity to achieve what must inevitably be a completely new economic model for Iraq.”
He spoke specifically of the need to diversify, create investment opportunities, and revive the agricultural sector, while severely curtailing spending in other areas such as government salaries. He mentioned the ongoing dispute between governments in Baghdad and Erbil as a potential obstacle to achieving economic reform.
The new report, written by Dr. C. Anthony Pfaf, sheds light on the circumstances surrounding the widespread anti-government protests in Iraq, which began in October 2019, and the socioeconomic realities behind the country’s high unemployment.
About 60% of Iraqi’s population is under the age of 25. According to the report, “many of these young Iraqis are unemployed, or at least under-engaged, meaning that they are often impoverished, bored, and resentful. Many have been traumatized by nearly constant warfare.”