World Bank’s Neman: ‘Critical time’ as Iraq faces multiple crises | Talk to Al Jazeera

After months of anti-government protests and political uncertainty, Iraq is now grappling with its worst fiscal crisis in decades.

The country’s economy and state budget are heavily reliant on oil income, and have been hit hard by the sharp decline in global oil prices.

The World Bank has projected Iraq’s GDP to contract by 9.7 percent, with the fiscal deficit expected to reach almost 30 percent of GDP.

Iraq’s newly appointed government, led by Mustafa al-Kadhimi, is now faced with a challenging task of implementing long-overdue structural reforms, such as reducing public sector employment while also keeping popular unrest at bay.

But what are the root causes of the current economic crisis and what needs to be done to tackle it?

And how can the new government overcome entrenched political interests that oppose reform while also winning over a public that has lost all trust in the political establishment?

Ramzi Neman, the World Bank’s special representative to Iraq, talks to Al Jazeera.

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In This Story: Iraq

Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia. The capital and largest city is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, Yazidis, Shabakis, Armenians, Mandaeans, Circassians, Sabians and Kawliya. Around 99% of the country’s 38 million citizens are Muslims, with small minorities of Christians, Yarsans, Yezidis and Mandeans also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.

Iraq has a coastline measuring 58 km (36 miles) on the northern Persian Gulf and encompasses the Mesopotamian Alluvial Plain, the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range and the eastern part of the Syrian Desert. Two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, run south through Iraq and into the Shatt al-Arab near the Persian Gulf. These rivers provide Iraq with significant amounts of fertile land. The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, historically known as Mesopotamia, is often referred to as the cradle of civilisation.

Iraq is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 19 governorates, four of which make up the autonomous Kurdistan Region. Disputes over the sovereignty of Kurdistan Region continue.

Iraq is a founding member of the UN as well as of the Arab League, OIC, Non-Aligned Movement and the IMF.

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