Middle East

Oil-rich Iraq grapples with power outages for 30 years

Iraqis left without power almost all day, except for few hours, especially in summer

Idris Okuduci  | 08.07.2021 - Update : 08.07.2021
Oil-rich Iraq grapples with power outages for 30 years


Although Iraq is an oil-rich country, it has been unable to solve the electricity problem, which has been chronicled first by an embargo and then by corruption, mismanagement, and instability for nearly 30 years.

The electricity crisis has shown the situation faced by Iraq in providing services in all its dimensions.

The electricity sector was subjected to massive neglect, inadequate maintenance, and looting before 2003, while after the US invasion it was neglected due to years of corruption, despite great promises.

Power outages during the high temperatures of the summer have even become a factor that will lead prime ministers to resign and change the political balance.

Electricity was also used as a means of repression by neighboring countries such as Iran.

Also, Electricity Minister Majid Mahdi Hantoush resigned on July 2 due to protests, especially after almost day-long power outages in four provinces in the south of the country.

Reasons for electricity crisis

Insufficient production, not being able to meet demand in parallel with the rising population, the Tehran administration’s decision to cut electricity from time to time due to the inability of Iraq on paying debts and not being able to import electricity from Gulf countries as Iraq’s network is only linked with Iran, and attacks carried out by the terror group Daesh/ISIS are some of the reasons of this crisis.

Electricity and energy are also considered the most corrupt sectors in the country after the defense sector.

So election campaigns of all governments established after 2003 have included promises to strengthen the energy infrastructure, including electricity, with no progress on the issue so far.

Currently, Iraq's most provinces can only provide a few hours of electricity a day, while three provinces in the Kurdish Regional Government region in northern Iraq -- including Duhok, Sulaymaniyah, and Erbil -- an average of 12 hours.

For the rest of the day, neighborhood generators that cannot even run air conditioners are activated.

Iraqis try to cool off with propellers that consume little electricity during hours when temperatures are very high, and use ice molds produced in factories for cold drinks.

As every summer, electricity is again among the main agenda items of the government and the country this year.

The government had paid the price for 17 years of wrong policies and an unconscious waste of public resources, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said after a meeting of the Council of Ministers on July 3, referring to the electricity crisis.

*Writing by Merve Berker in Ankara.

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