Cablegate: Provincial Developmenmt Strategy in Muthanna - A

DE RUEHGB #2647/01 2210426
P 090426Z AUG 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. This is a PRT Muthanna cable.

2. Summary: On July 25 and 26, Muthanna Province held the
first public meeting in the long process of creating a
Muthanna Provincial Development Strategy (MPDS). It was
similar to a New England town council meeting, where citizens
candidly articulated what they wanted their government to do
for them. This is seen as a major milestone for the province
in making the transition from the Saddam era where the
direction came from the central government, to developing
local government in Iraq that is representative to the needs
of its citizens. The next step will be to use the MPDS to
create a budget that will be presented to the central
government, which ultimately is the source of funding for
provincial public development. With no oil or other high
value natural resources, the people of Muthanna must rely on
the land, the central government, and their human resources
to develop their province. The conference received extensive
local media coverage. End Summary.


3. Muthanna is an overwhelmingly Shi'ite province, with no
known oil reserves, and with an economy based primarily on
agriculture. As such, it was neglected during Saddam
Hussein's rule. During that time, local government was
directed from above on what to do, how to do it, and given
funds to do it. Since the overthrow of Saddam, it has not
exhibited the same prevalence towards violence that has been
displayed in other provinces, including the predominantly
Shi'ite province of Basra. For this reason Muthanna Province
was the first to "go PIC" (Provincial Iraqi Control).

The MPDS Process

4. The MPDS process and document are designed to assess the
needs of the citizens, articulate goals, and to identify
capital projects to achieve those goals. The funding for
these projects comes from the central government ministries;
therefore the MPDS is also a tool for requesting the funding
to achieve their goals. Since November, 2006, PRT Muthanna
has worked with the provincial government to form Sector
Working Groups (SWG) in order to create a blueprint for
Muthanna's future development. The SWGs - composed of PRT
members, government officials, academics, and NGO
representatives - develop plans within the various sectors
that are generally represented by the ministries' directors
general (DG). SWGs met repeatedly at Iraqi Army bases, Tallil
Air Base where the PRT is based, the Provincial Council
building in Samawah, and at several conferences hosted by the
British Department for International Development (DFID)
outside of Iraq. The end products of the SWGs were combined
into the draft MPDS.

The Public Meeting

5. On 25-26 July, the open conference was held at the PC
building for discussion of the final draft MPDS. Conference
participants included PRT and SWG members, and local
representatives of the provincial districts and
sub-districts. PRT members had been working for months to
bring more of these local representatives into the process,
but this was the first event where all were present. The
ensuing discussion reflected true representative government.
Comments ranged from, "Why are there no road projects for my
district," to, "There is no vision to develop the Iraqi
people." At times the discussion became heated, and sometimes
very pointed: when the Housing DG was asked why his ministry
wasn't building houses in some districts, he responded, "Some
local councils insist on deciding who will get the bid," to
which people demanded, "Who, which ones?"

What's Next

6. The final product from the conference was a list of
comments and complaints from the representative participants,
which will be reviewed by the full PC. The final MPDS is
scheduled to be voted on by the PC next week, thereby
completing a long and sometimes arduous process. The next
step will be to connect the MPDS to the budget development
and execution process. Muthanna PRT, in connection with RTI,
has already started this process and completed a computerized
template for the provincial budget.

BAGHDAD 00002647 002 OF 002

7. Comment: Completion of the development strategy marks a
significant milestone for Muthanna province (and the PRT) not
only for the development strategy itself, but also for the
manner in which it was presented to the public for debate and
comment. The conference received extensive local media
coverage, including local television. Equally important has
been the commitment shown by local officials to take
ownership of the development strategy process. What began as
a PRT/DFID sponsored initiative ended as a truly locally
driven process. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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