The fall of Kirkuk in 2040

Sheikh Muhedin Cemetary in central Kirkuk Photo: Bnar Sardar

Sangar Rasul

Assume that it is March 2040 and you are living in one of Kirkuk’s neighborhoods, contemplating the economic growth and development of other nations via a technology more sophisticated than the smartphones you already have. Assume that you also enjoy the latest technologies available throughout the world, but the difference here is that you are living in an impoverished country because the oil revenues no longer cover the administrative expenses in your city or country.

Other nations, particularly those in eastern Asia have employed their human resources, investment plans and innovative ideas reach the peak of economic booming, while your country has been exporting oil for hundreds of years and instead of using its income to invest in economic projects, it has been spent for importing other countries’ technological products.

Suddenly, you wake up and immediately grab your phone. First you look at the calendar and learn that it is the year 2019. Reading news about oil prices, the political disputes in Iraq, the different views of Kirkuk’s diverse components and after seeing the plumes of smoke in your city’s sky, you will be sure that it was only a bad dream.

This bad dream is actually a reality that you cannot evade, because within the coming couple of decades nations and states with potential technological capital can promote the technological revolution while preserving the environment and finding alternative sources of energy.

For example, currently there are many countries engaged in generating electricity via renewable energy, in a way that until 2050 more than 139 countries are expected to depend 100% on renewable energy.

Many of the world’s crowded cities like Paris, London and Berlin plan to ban the use of petrol and diesel cars and replace them with electric vehicles.

Kirkuk (with 8.7 billion barrels of oil reserves) has been exporting its oil since 1934, yet the least progress and investment projects could be seen there.     


Furthermore, other countries have plans and projects for which billions of dollars would be spent to achieve further technology advance and boost investment as well as dealing with the negative impacts of the oil industry.

By 2040, these predictions will be closer to reality more than ever. These facts have direct connection with the future of Iraq and the province of Kirkuk in particular, giving the fact that Kirkuk (with 8.7 billion barrels of oil reserves) has been exporting its oil since 1934, yet the least progress and investment projects could be seen there.     

Of every economic crisis Kirkuk and her sister Basra get the lion’s share.

Besides being a source of revenue for other provinces, people in these two cities have been victims of pollution with all its disastrous impacts.

If we take a look at the 2019 federal budget of Iraq with about 112 billion U.S. dollars and a deficit at 23 billion dollars we will stumble upon horrifying data. According to the bill approved by the parliament, 75% of the budget will go for operating expenses, 23% for investment and rehabilitation.

Compared to 2018, the budget allocated for operating expenses has increased from 39 billion dollars to 52 billion dollars. These numbers reveal that despite the massive destruction which the Islamic State left behind, only 27 billion dollars have been allocated for investment and rehabilitation, at a time the rebuilding process requires more than 88 billion dollars.

Spending such a big budget in this form paves the way for the prolongation of corruption and the nurturing of masked unemployment besides spending billions for militias which all together leaves no space for the implementation of strategic projects in Kirkuk, especially as it is the most disputable territory by Baghdad and Erbil.

If we review the budget and incomes of Iraq since the fall of the former regime in 2003, we see that it is extremely hard to notice considerable positive impacts of 800 billion dollars obtained from oil revenues on the education or the health sector across Iraq. Meanwhile, a state like Jordan which hasn’t sold a drop of oil tripled its revenues during the same period.

In a country with a population of 38 million, the lack of planning and the spread of corruption are expected to incorporate one million unemployed people into the public sector.

If this is the case in Iraq, then it would be true for Kirkuk, too. Her, several question arise: What could be the federal government and the Kurdistan regional government’s plans and strategies to provide job opportunities and diversify the country’s sources of revenue in order not to be oil-dependent? What would be done for the residents of Kirkuk as it is the major disputed territory according to the constitution? Would they become the victim of the Baghdad-Erbil disputes?

The story of the fall of Kirkuk in 2040 would not be a fictional one, particularly if the future budget bills of Iraq were formulated in the same manner and if Kirkuk was deprived from significant investment projects.

Kirkuk whose ownership is still disputed has a special status. The best means to reduce the risks of conflicts and disputes could be only through boosting the economy.

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