“There is no such thing as a rich or power country, but all about a good or bad management ...”
This is the wisdom that can best describe global economic developments since the end of the Second World War. Since then, many countries have successfully moved into the ranks of developed states, even though they had limited resources at the time, such as Singapore and South Korea. Others, with tremendous resources, hit rock bottom and are suffering poverty and unemployment, with the likes of Iran, Iraq, Libya and Lebanon having turned into failed countries.
Iran’s brazen influence
The root cause is the absolute mismanagement and rampant corruption within those states, and in their ruling parties to be precise. This phenomenon has intensified to frightening levels in Iraq and Lebanon after Tehran’s domination over the two countries in a bid to export its revolution. Iran helped some forces in Iraq and Lebanon to assume power, which have since copied its corruption but with all its disadvantages and tragedies.
This enabled senior government officials to seize state resources via deceitful means to amass sizeable wealth, a hideous crime by all standards. It was done under camouflaged sectarian slogans, and which the Lebanese and Iraqis have become aware of now. This is fuelling the recent unrest in these countries.
Seize and resist
This prompted Tehran to step in to protect the corrupt class. The Iranian leader is busy trying to maintain the wealth that he and his political and religious elite have seized from Lebanon and Iraq. The US embassy in Iraq estimates Khamenei’s wealth at $200 billion, although he hails from a poor family.
These provide evidence about the exploitation of sectarian issues to loot public fund and export corruption. One can understand the demands of the Lebanese and Iraqis and why they have taken a unified stance against the ruling sectarian parties. In doing so, the ordinary citizens have overcome ethnic and sectarian differences to protect their own interests.
For years, the ruling forces have used sectarian themes to justify their acts of looting, where the three key components of the state — a Sunni Prime Minister, Shiite Speaker of Parliament and Maronite President — in Lebanon, and Sunni and Shiite Muslims and Arab and non-Arab in Iraq have worked together to protect their interests. All the while supported by Tehran, which represents the protector of corruption.
Decades of development and progress have gone down the drain in these countries, despite having all the components of development. Iran and Iraq are the third and fourth largest oil exporters in the world. Yet, their people are deprived of the most basic services, which are available in other countries that are far less rich.
Difficult to dislodge
The lost wealth and opportunities have been mainly caused by Tehran. But will this go unpunished?
In fact, there are many in Iraq and Lebanon wanting to hold the corrupt accountable, including Iranian-backed entities such as the Islamic Dawa Party in Iraq, the Hezbollah in Lebanon and its leader Hassan Nasrallah. They are directly responsible for protecting the corrupt in their countries.
The Iraqis and Lebanese have realised that it is very hard to keep tricking people all the time. Holding the corrupt accountable is certainly not easy. They have access to enormous wealth and which they have grabbed without taking into consideration religion teachings or moral principles.
History shows that corrupt countries can be put back on the right course of development under a fresh non-sectarian leadership offering equal opportunities for all members of society.
Unfortunately, the people of Iran, Iraq and Lebanon will not be able to recover their looted wealth — as the experiences of other countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, prove. This will put them in the face of challenges that can only be overcome by merit-based governments. As the saying goes: “Good and wise management is the secret of development”.
Dr Mohammad Al Asoomi is a UAE economic expert and specialist in economic and social development in the UAE and the GCC countries.