Monday, 14 May 2012, 07:03 GMT
Ministry of Municipalities is to be more decentralized as new minister takes office

The view of Kurdistan's biggest drinking water project./ GLOBE PHOTO/Safin Hamed

The Kurdish Globe

Water to be ministry's first priority in the new cabinet

In an interview with The Kurdish Globe, the newly appointed Minister of Municipalities and Tourism Dilshad Shahab explains the ministry's plans for the coming years.

Globe: What will be your plan for this year, in relation to citizens, daily lives?

Shahab: I would like to start from the point that the majority of the people in Kurdistan, including the media, and sometimes even some official institutions, believe the Ministry of Municipalities is the place to receive land or get better plots of land in return for one's own land. I regret to tell them this is a wrong and unrealistic way of thinking. If we have done that as a ministry, we have done the wrong thing, and if people have understood it this way, we need to make this clear.

Addressing your question: The top priority of the Ministry of Municipalities is drinking water. One of our major tasks is providing drinking water for all citizens. I hope that during my period in office, instead of being called the minister of municipalities, I am called the minister of water, the minister of cleaning Kurdistan's cities and towns, rather than being called minister of allocating free plots of land for projects.

I don't mean that allocating land for projects is bad and not our duty, but it is not our first or even 10th priority. Our first priority is providing clean water. And we have a large number of projects to supply clean water. Some of those projects are in the final stages and some have reached advanced stages. Among the most important of those projects is the Fourth Ifraz project, which will minimize the water issue in Erbil.

Globe: Some say the cities are not clean. What are your plans to clean the cities, and especially Erbil, as it is the capital?

Shahab: After water, cleaning is our second priority. Private cleaning companies have been contracted in Erbil and Duhok. Besides, Erbil is now much cleaner than the past. In Suleimaniya, companies are now being contracted to provide cleaning services for the city.

Globe: Kurdistan Region has sewage problem. What is the Ministry of Municipalities, plan for this?

Shahab: Sewage is a big issue in Kurdistan, because it needs a huge budget and the Kurdistan Regional Government has not been able to afford it. An initial study indicates that Erbil's sewage system needs $1 billion. Now we are trying to allocate a budget for 2012 to start this project.

Globe: Erbil is a candidate to become the Arab Capital of Tourism. What will be your steps towards this?

Shahab: Tourism is an important sector and the tourism ministry should not have been closed down. We had a tourism ministry at a stage when the needs and situations were not suitable for giving much importance to this sector. We need to attach more importance to this sector because it has another important aspect, which is archeology. Now tourism and archeology are managed by a board, whose chairman is a member in the Council of Ministers. We are trying to work with the council to change this board to an independent one.

Globe: Are the current ministry regulations sufficient for you to implement your plans, or do they need amending?

Shahab: In the ministry's code, we give importance to the regulations for distributing the powers to lower administrative levels without breaching the laws. We have established a committee to review the powers and the minister's power should be transferred to the directors general and they should also be obliged to transfer authorities to lower levels, and this is our policy. The regulations are not very comprehensive, so they need to be changed. The Ministry of Municipality is not the government's ministry, but rather the ministry of the people, and we want the people to know that.

Globe: Are the regulations applied equally around the Region?

Shahab: We have a special committee to unify all the regulations all over Kurdistan. What applies to Zakho, equally applies to Sharazoor, and anywhere else in the Region. Whatever regulation is in the public interest will remain and will be enforced everywhere. Besides, promotions for the ministry's employees will be only based on qualifications and performance. No one will be promoted except in accordance with the regulations and procedures

Globe: What will be the new regulations and procedures for leasing land to projects?

Shahab: There should be a plan for every city and district for its needs, and if there are plots of land available, they should be allocated to projects according to priorities. Besides, the planning ministry has to inform us in which cities and districts the priorities are higher so that we can allocate land according to those priorities. Otherwise, we will not allocate even one square meter to anyone outside the limits of the current procedures and regulations that have been approved by the presidency office and Council of Ministers. We will deal in this way with whatever is in our control.

Globe: How many unregistered houses are there in the Region?

Shahab: There are approximately 40,000 houses all over Kurdistan that have not been registered. We are currently working with the Ministry of Justice on a draft law to seek a solution for this issue and find a way to register them.