Baghdad / TEH: Economic researchers expect Iraq to witness a population explosion in the coming years, with a steady increase in the number of people in a country that still depends on oil sales revenues to finance up to about 95 percent of expenditures.
According to the estimates of the Ministry of Planning, the population of Iraq reached 41 million and 190 thousand people in 2021, up from 40 million and 150 thousand people in the previous year.
The forecasts of the Central Statistics Agency of the Ministry of Planning indicate that the country’s population will reach 50 million and 200 thousand people by 2030.
These expectations raise the concerns of researchers in economic affairs that Iraq is on the verge of a population explosion that may have many negative repercussions on the country’s economy and the living situation of the population.
These fears are driven by the economic reality of the country, which is considered rentier and depends almost entirely on revenues from oil sales to secure state expenditures, with the collapse and deterioration of a large part of the infrastructure for public services and vital sectors such as industry and agriculture due to decades of war and political and security instability.
A boom could cause a population explosion
Duraid Al-Shaker Al-Anzi, a researcher in Iraqi economic affairs, told The Eastern Herald online magazine that “births for the year 2021 are considered an unprecedented boom in Iraq.”
Iraq will witness a population explosion if this rate of births continues, noting that the population numbers will double in the coming years.
The government solutions to this file do not exist and these annual increases and the absence of a supportive economy for them and their families will turn the Iraqi individual into a breadwinner for more than five people, and thus the economy will turn into excessive consumption without any possibility of financial accumulation; any consumption from hand to the mouth.
The government is unable to provide milk for the newcomers and their mothers before and after birth, so how will this generation arise, with what health and with what ability to work and produce.
The average family size in Iraq is 5.7 individuals, according to the Ministry of Planning figures for the year 2021.
And the numbers announced by the Ministry of Planning are not accurate, because Iraq has not conducted an official population census since 1997.
Over the past 15 years, the political forces did not agree to conduct the census, which is the basis for distributing wealth in the country, drawing development plans, evaluating their results, and setting correct plans for reconstruction.
Among the most prominent problems impeding the conduct of this census is the dispute between the governments of Baghdad (central) and Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region (north) regarding control of the areas subject to Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution or what are known as the disputed areas, the most prominent of which is the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
The increase is slight and normal
For its part, the Ministry of Planning underestimated the importance of the continuous increase in population numbers in the country.
Ministry spokesman Abdul-Zahra Al-Hindawi told The Eastern Herald online newspaper, “The slight increase in the number of births last year is within normal limits.”
He explained that “the increase comes within the natural pattern, as the population of Iraq has exceeded 41 million, according to the ministry’s statistics.”
Al-Hindawi continued, saying that “20 million of the Iraqi people are between the ages of 15 and 50 and they are in the reproductive stage, so the increase is normal.”
Regarding Iraq’s ability to absorb the continuous increase, Al-Hindawi said, “The ministry has drawn up plans regarding the expected increase and the possibility of absorbing it across the health and educational system and others.”
He concluded his speech by saying that “by implementing the plans set by the ministry, which includes specialized committees, the increasing numbers can be controlled and contained.”
Iraq is the second-largest producer of crude oil in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries “OPEC” after Saudi Arabia, with an average production of 4.6 million barrels per day under normal conditions.
The steady increase in population will put pressure on revenues from the sale of oil as other productive sectors weaken and the country will need a lot of money to rebuild the dilapidated infrastructure.
The Iraqi economist, Ahmed Saddam, told The Eastern Herald online newspaper, “The increase in the population requires taking economic plans to transform the impact of this into positive aspects.”
He explained that “a rise in the population can contribute to an increase in economic growth, but on the condition that the elements supporting this are provided in order to convert it into economic energy instead of being a negative influence.”
He added that “the planning decision-makers are required to increase the number of schools in a manner equivalent to the number of entrants annually, as well as to increase the level of health institutions and related services according to well-studied plans.”
And he added, “It also requires improving the reality of urban planning and building residential complexes by facilitating procedures and creating competition between companies in order to advance this sector, especially since the housing problem is still present and the shortage of housing units is estimated at 4 to 5 million housing units.”
Saddam pointed to “the importance of activating policies that stimulate economic diversification of non-oil projects in order to gradually create job opportunities to meet the numbers of people entrants into the labor market; this means giving a greater role to the local and foreign private sector in order to stimulate related economic activities.”
And he indicated that “the population increase also means an increase in demand for foodstuffs, as well as other commodities, and this should push economic plans towards improving the reality of the agricultural sector as well as the manufacturing sector, because otherwise, the level of consumer imports will rise significantly in the future and constitute a greater burden on the budget.” general state.”
The Iraqi government was forced to intervene recently when the prices of food commodities began to rise in the local markets, driven by the Ukrainian crisis.
Baghdad has taken a number of decisions to mitigate the impact of high prices on the vulnerable classes of the low-income and the unemployed, including distributing cash, zeroing customs duties on imported foodstuffs, and lifting subsidies on local goods by opening the door to importing all food, construction and medicine commodities.
The unemployment rate in Iraq is 27 percent, while the poverty rate is 31.7 percent, according to the latest statistics of the Ministry of Planning.