Friday, January 26, 2007

No Quorum for Months

Iraqi Parliament has failed to reach quorum since October 2006. Understandably, it's hard to attend parliamentary sessions when you live in the Green Zone, or the Rashid Hotel, or Amman, or Dubai, or London. MP Adnan Al-Pachachi, who spoke from Dubai, complained that their salaries can only afford 20 security guards, while they need at least 40 to make it from the Baghdad Airport to the Green Zone. I wonder how many security guards Pachachi would need if he were to venture on the streets of Baghdad, which he probably hasn't seen in decades.

Funny, too, that he would complain about the salary. Iraqi members of parliament receive up to $120,000 in salaries and benefits, or about $10,000 a month, plus the additional salaries of 20 security guards - which most MPs choose to pocket instead. Actually, the first bill Iraqi MPs (of all sects and ethnicities) passed unanimously was the one in which they defined their salaries, privileges and benefits. That session was conveniently closed to the media. Perhaps you should also know that the average salary for a civil servant in Iraq is $150. A day labourer would make less than half of that. And you would be considered quite well-to-do if your salary is $400 or $500.

Shame. And this is what they call a "democratically-elected government."

Iraqi parliament fails to reach quorum***

Meanwhile, Iraqi refugees are piling up in Jordan and Syria, except they are regarded as tourists, since Jordan is worried about the consequences of the word "refugee." Soon, Iraqis might not even have that luxury. I often tell my family to come up with a plan to leave as soon as possible before Syria - the last remaining outlet for Iraqis fresh out of the country - decides to close its borders as well when it becomes too much of a strain.

Here is my post on Iraqis in Jordan when I was in Amman last summer.