Friday, July 17, 2009

Leftists question Kurdistan capitalism

Freedom and Social Justice touts market control and amendment of region’s investment law

Dr. Hadi Mahmoud, spokesman for the Freedom and Social Justice List No. 55, explains why five leftist parties have united to ensure their existence in the decision-making medium.

By Ako Muhammed

Why have the Kurdistan Leftist parties united?

Kurdish leftist parties have united on common grounds to prepare for the Kurdistan elections so as to fulfill a considered program. We want to find a way into the decision-making medium and effectively act there. Another reason is that we want to be able to create street/public activity--a form of leftist struggle that is democratic, civil, and peaceful.

This unification indicates that leftism is still alive in Kurdistan. It is alive because of an objective necessity through the program that leftists adopt. The left carries a project for social reforms, including developing society, expanding democracy’s dimensions, expanding secularism, and spreading civil ideas in both political and social lives.

These goals are claimed by every list; what do you as leftists specifically claim?

You cannot say they are goals of every list if you discuss them precisely. Not all the lists talk about secularism as we do clearly. When we talk about social reforms, we have our own ideas for this reform. We discuss social reform objectively. As leftists in Kurdistan, we have a duty more different than a leftist’s duty in Europe due to particular conditions that exist in Kurdistan. There is a certain political situation; Kurdistan is located inside Iraq—the rebuilding of the Iraqi State is not finished yet, and there is foreign interference in the internal affairs of Iraq by countries such as the United States and others. What happened in Iraq was because of foreign reasons. It is true that removing the dictator was a necessity, but the main reason was foreign. These facts must be taken into consideration while you demand independence, individual freedom, and democracy. The leftist discourse works to give a role to the subjective reason that is embodied in society. Others talk about democracy, but we demand social democracy.

What do you mean by social democracy?

Social democracy is reflected in economic and social policies; it affects the construction of infrastructure. Leftists are not content with the economic policy of the KRG and Iraq, which all are built dependent on the rationality of the new liberalism. It was the new liberalism that caused the economic crises for the capitalist system in the United States. We now cannot call for establishing a socialist system—it is now impossible to establish. But we want a capitalist system to be in way the government’s role to be restricted only in administration and to allow people a role to watching. We require the economic policy to be clear and progressive according to mechanisms; a healthy system cannot be achieved via slogans. The government should control the market and the region’s investment law must be amended.

What are your notes on investment law?

We didn’t vote for that law in Parliament for several reasons. All the doors are open for foreign investment while the law does not help native capitalists. Privileges given to a foreign investor are not allowed to a national investor. The foreign investors who come are exempted from taxes. Some contracts lack transparency. Development must fall in the social interest. Investment now, however, is the new liberal style that opens all the doors for investment without any control. This policy must be redirected.

Kurdistan is not in need of entertaining services, but it needs factory services more than any other types. Our economy shouldn’t depend only on oil income; this policy has a short-term perspective even if it creates an intermediate development. In our social and economic view, you shouldn’t employ a large number of people as police and give them a salary. Therefore, you should create real work opportunities.

For the differences in incomes, what plan do you apply?

For example, we ask that 30% of salaries dedicated for ministers and Parliament members be cut off and dedicated for construction projects. Also, we think that 10% of Kurdistan Region’s budget should be saved for future generations.

Income differences don’t exist strictly in one salary system. The capitalism here has divided people into very rich and poor layers. How would you deal with this?

This difference comes from mixing wealth and policy. The one who has the political decision is controlling the market as well. This is clear and it is known who owns the big companies. This is how corruption appears, especially as there is no oversight. Income differences can be limited through several ways. Party affairs must be separated from government affairs. An oversight agency needs to be established. Governmental employees’ lives need to be improved. Media should be able to reveal transparency. People should be asked about the projects that affect their lives.

When a private hospital is opened, it will be useless for a poor person who cannot afford for it. Therefore, the government must act responsibly to raise the quality of public hospitals.

To avoid political party influence, what type of oversight system is needed in the region?

Several oversight methods can be established. The government can institute its own oversight establishments. A council that also belongs to the authority can be a watchdog. Administration courts can question government affairs. But we more need more oversight ability outside the expectative authority. A transparency commission is more practical, although such a commission is possible to be influenced politically.

What do you think about the disputed areas and Article 140?

We have mentioned this in our program. The disputed areas are not an issue on which we will compromise. This does not mean we have acted sufficiently toward this issue. We could have acted in another way. We could have worked to win public opinion on this issue. The political parties, especially the KDP and PUK, were committing conflicts for party interests in Kirkuk and in other disputed areas. This caused us damages.

How do you see the campaign and what are your expectations?

Although there are violations or tearing of posters and these must be dealt with by the Electoral Commission. In general we see the campaign is processing in the normal direction. Some lists are using loud tones, but we leftists don’t use a sensational manner. We adopt a rational discourse depending on the programs. Sensation is the easiest manner in such a society. We don’t erase totally what the opposite side has done.

What are your expectations?

If you notice the lists’ expectations, Parliament seats should be raised to 200 or 300 seats. We are not such a power wishing to govern, but we want to exist in the decision-making medium. The Red Flowers will be in Parliament as big as the size of existence in the community. We have an expectation, and it has increased since the launch of the campaign; we now hope for a bigger number.

The Kurdish Globe

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