USA TODAY'S PETER FUNT THINKS HE'S GOT THE JOKES. JOE BIDEN, HE MOCKS, CAN'T RUN IN 2024. OH, FUNNY, PETER, FUNNY!
ON A GOOD DAY, JOE CAN STILL RUN. GIVE HIM SOME CREDIT.
GIVE HIM 90 MINUTES AND HE CAN ALSO PEE FOR ABOUT 10 SECONDS.
GIVE HIM THE CREDIT HE'S EARNED, PEOPLE!!!!
When the Iraqi government prepares deals, there's a lot of press about it. When the money comes in -- and quickly vanishes -- not so much. ARABIAN BUSINESS notes:
Iraq is discussing a “giant” agreement with French oil giant Total SE to build large infrastructure installations, develop oil fields and produce gas, Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar told Asharq News in an interview that aired on Saturday.
The minister said he expected the contract to be finalized before July. The relationship with Total will be based on targeting low-carbon industry and capturing all flaring gas, and is set to produce 1GW of solar energy in the first stage. A specialized team from the oil ministry is leading these discussions with Total.
BLOOMBERG NEWS adds, "Iraq this year is also expected to ink a deal to build an oil export pipeline from the southern province of Basra to Jordan’s Aqba port on the Red Sea. A framework agreement may be signed before mid-April, Abdul Jabbar said." Where will that money go? If recent history is pattern, it won't go to the people.
And when someone blows the whistle on corruption? They don't become heroes. Instead, they have to fear for their own life. THE VANGUARD reports:
Hassanein Mohsen spent months protesting against corruption in Iraq. He also lodged complaints against officials. But now he is shunned as a whistleblower and sees only one way out: emigration.
“You can’t live here without paying bribes,” the unemployed father-of-four told AFP. “I’ve given everything I can, and this country is still sinking lower.”
The stout 36-year-old engineer from the shrine city of Karbala said he had been driven to despair by the endemic graft in his homeland, ranked the 21st most corrupt country by Transparency International. In January, the advocacy group said public corruption had deprived Iraqis of basic rights and services, including water, health care, electricity and jobs. It said systemic graft was eating away at Iraqis’ hopes for the future, pushing growing numbers to try to emigrate.
AFP's Maya Gebeily Tweets:
From Maya's AFP report "Worse than a jungle:"
Like most of the government officials, port workers and importers interviewed for this story, this worker cited threats to his life and asked to speak anonymously.
The network they described arises from Iraq's glacially slow bureaucracy, fractious politics, limited non-oil industry and endemic corruption that is itself largely a product of years of chaos in the wake of the 2003 US invasion to topple dictator Saddam Hussein.
Customs provide one of the few sources of state revenues, and to keep disparate groups and tribes happy, many of them close to Iran, entry points are divvied up among them and federal duties largely supplanted by bribes.
"There's a kind of collusion between officials, political parties, gangs and corrupt businessmen," Iraq's Finance Minister Ali Allawi told AFP.
Who's watching the store? AFP reports on one person watching:
Suitcases of spreadsheets are wheeled into her office, as infuriated MPs storm out. Her unmistakeable voice booms down the finance ministry hallways.
Meet Taif al-Sami, Iraq's budget baroness.
Detractors say she's an old-fashioned micromanager, while fans praise her as a bulwark against pervasive state corruption in Iraq -- and an independent, vocal woman in a male-dominated bureaucracy.
But they agree that the 57-year-old head of the ministry's budget department knows her stuff.
"She stuck out because she filled a gap. She has good administrative abilities and very good financial knowledge," Finance Minister Ali Allawi told AFP.
Sami has the last word on individual budget disbursements, meaning parliamentarians and ministry officials need her to green-light funds for projects, promotions or other payments.
She often spots irregularities, including an attempt by a government ministry in 2018 to score a bigger annual budget by artificially increasing its employees' pay grades and introducing "ghost employees" -- workers that exist on the payroll but not in real life.
"It would have cost the Iraqi state billions of dinars," said Sami, or at least hundreds of thousands of US dollars out of a $100-billion budget.
It's a classic graft scheme in Iraq: that same year, parliament discovered that some $450 billion in public funds had been embezzled since 2003, including in similar ghost employee schemes.
"She has a major role in stopping budget corruption," said a top Iraqi official who worked with Sami.
"The country would have disintegrated without her," said the official, who did not want to be named.
[. . .]
She said that she once requested well-connected finance ministry couriers be changed after finding out they were only sending correspondence if they received a bribe.
Within hours, men in SUVs with tinted windows surrounded her home, demanding the couriers be reinstated.
"Another time, I refused a request from a provincial official and the person involved threatened to drag me and throw me out the window," Sami recalled.
"If I belonged to a party, I'd be untouchable."
The corruption in Iraq is a national scandal. It's why Iraqis have been protesting for over a year now.
It goes on and on. Prime ministers are sworn in with promises that they will end corruption and then they leave office with the corruption worse than ever.
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