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Iraqi PM overhauls electricity ministry after protests

By AFP - Aug 09,2018 - Last updated at Aug 09,2018

BAGHDAD — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi has sacked a number of electricity ministry officials, his office said Thursday, in the latest attempt to quell public anger at chronic power cuts.

Four directors have been dismissed and a number of others moved “in order to reorganise the operation of the ministry in the service of the country”, the prime minister’s office said in a statement. 

Those sacked were in charge of investments, contracts, distribution and administration at the ministry. 

The decision follows the dismissal last month of electricity minister, Qassem Al Fahdawi, “because of the deterioration in the electricity sector”, the premier’s office said at the time.

Iraq has been hit by more than a month of protests which erupted in Basra and quickly spread to other southern cities, as well as reaching the capital Baghdad.

Demonstrators are angry at the dire state of public services, with regular power cuts offering little respite from sweltering summer temperatures.

With the national grid providing just a few hours of electricity per day, many Iraqis are forced to pay to use generators through the private sector. 

Protesters have also rallied against water shortages, unemployment and graft in a country where citizens argue they fail to benefit from the country’s oil wealth.

Officially $40 billion has been allocated to the power sector over the past 15 years, but a substantial slice has been siphoned off by corrupt politicians and businessmen who have fronted fake contracts. 

Iraq’s anti-graft Commission of Integrity said Thursday it had succeeded in “recovering and preventing the waste” of public funds to the value of $322 million in the first six months of the year. 

The commission said its investigations had allowed the judiciary to issue 1,071 arrest warrants, including against nine ministers and 21 senior officials but without naming them. 

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