The problems faced by Kurdistan with respect to the introduction of democratic politics stem from political parties seeking immediate gain by fulfilling their constituents’ short-term, material demands, at the expense of long-term development-focused planning. We see in this an example of what is, particularly for young democracies, a typical problem.

Democracy has flourished in the Kurdistan region. However, the socio-economic context of the region means that the introduction of democracy has created several obstacles for developmental policy:

  • The people of the Kurdistan Region depend heavily on the regional government for their livelihood.
  • Decades of wars and negligence have depleted human capital and have created an unhealthy dependency culture in the region.

Consequently, a combination of the heavy reliance of the populous on the state and political pragmatism encourages politicians to focus overly on present concerns. This leads to a short-term popular political approach to public policymaking at the expense of comprehensive long-term economic development plans.

Long-term economic development requires a serious investment in the areas of critical importance such as education, infrastructure and health. However, an estimated 70 percent of the KRG’s budget is spent paying the salaries of a large number of public employees. This has diverted much-needed capital away from the key sectors.

In the last few years, thanks to its generous legal framework regulating investment, the KRG has, to some extent, been able to promote the private sector in the Kurdistan Region. What is needed now is government policies aimed at improving the quality of education in the Region. Quality education, which, crucially, provides skills that complement the developmental needs of the Kurdistan Region, is required to develop a skilled labor force in the Region.

The negative impact of populist democratic politics on the long-term economic development of the Kurdistan Region needs to be addressed. To do so, the exercising of democratic rights needs to take place within a societal context that places importance on long-term national development. The KRG needs to establish a political framework prioritizing long-term development. The KRG needs to:

  • Devise a long-term developmental plan that is endorsed by all political parties, under an agreed national development strategy;
  • Promote productivity, efficiency and transparency in all branches of the government based on a comprehensive developmental agenda that has the support of all political parties;
  • Carefully study government intervention in the economy particularly with respect to its negative impact on the functioning of market forces and long-term socio-economic development.
  • Clarify the nature and model of economic development that the KRG is pursuing and establish political and social apparatus that complement these. The KRG’s current financial crisis, which is partially due to the burden on the government’s budget from the high number of public employees, has put the government under pressure to promote the private sector. A more vibrant private sector would reduce the current pressures and the need for the creation of even more public sector jobs.

In the last few years, thanks to its generous legal framework regulating investment, the KRG has, to some extent, been able to promote the private sector in the Kurdistan region. What is needed now is government policies aimed at improving the quality of education in the region. Quality education, which, crucially, provides skills that complement the developmental needs of the Kurdistan region, is required to develop a skilled labor force in the region. Better skills make new university graduates mores employable in the private sector job market, reducing pressure on the government to provide employment in the public sector.