[size=52]Why Iraq's inability to conduct a population census a quarter of a century ago?[/size]
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[size=45]In 1997, Iraq conducted its last population census. A process marred by many problems, as the poll included only 15 governorates after excluding the governorates of the Kurdistan region, which prompted some researchers not to acknowledge its results and to be satisfied with the data of the census that preceded it ten years ago and included all the governorates of Iraq.
The census is not only related to counting the population, but rather determines the most accurate details of the demographic composition of the country, on which governments subsequently rely to build their plans in the fields of education, health and others.
26 years ago, Iraq did not succeed in conducting another population census, and the government relied on old or unofficial statistics that usually have a large margin of error that leads to an imbalance in the desired results, which is supposed to change after announcing the implementation of the census this year.
Why has Iraq been unable for a quarter of a century to conduct a population census?
History of the census in Iraq
According to what was reported by the “Raise Your Voice” website on the authority of Saad Mohsen, in his research “The Population Censuses that took place in Iraq,” Mesopotamia has known “population censuses” since the time of the Sumerians. At that time, these “censuses” were conducted for economic and military purposes in order to determine the number of young males who could bear arms or the number of wealthy merchants and families who would pay taxes.
During the reign of Prince Gudia, who ruled the Sumerian emirate of Lagash from 2144 BC to 2124 BC, the Iraqi ruler conducted a census of the population of his emirate, which ended up with an estimate of 450,000 people.
In modern Iraq, the government attempted in 1927 to hold the first population census after the establishment of the Iraqi monarchy, but many mistakes accompanied the implementation of the process prompted Baghdad to cancel its results.
In 1934, another census was conducted, limited to determining the number of people able to participate in elections and in the war effort. This census determined the population of Iraq to be more than three million and 200 thousand people.
Despite the simplicity of its data, it remained a reference for the state in its governmental plans and programs until another census was conducted in 1947, in which the number of Iraqis reached 4 million and 826 thousand people.
This time is the first Iraqi attempt to census the population using modern technical means, compared to what was available at the time, which encouraged Baghdad to adopt a policy that requires organizing a population census every ten years.
This census was organized in 1957 (6 million and 300 thousand people), 1965 (instead of 1967), 1977 (12 million people), 1987 and 1997, which witnessed the organization of the census for the last time.
Risks of disabling the enumeration
Without a strong database, “the country is walking down a dark path with its eyes closed,” Samir Khudair Hadi, the executive director of the census, described the seriousness of the delay in organizing the census, according to what was reported by the “Raise Your Voice” website.
Mohsen Hassan said, in his research “Obstacles to the Population Census and Its Negative Effects on the Future of Development in Iraq,” that the refusal to implement the population census means that statistical indicators in Iraq enter the realm of speculation, which resulted in the failure of most of the national development plans, as they are based on unreliable estimated data. .
In the absence of a census, Iraq failed to accurately determine the size of population growth, which prevented it from adopting policies that reduce the increasing population growth, which led to the emergence of phenomena of encroachment on agricultural lands, increased consumption, and widespread unemployment.
Baghdad was also unable to issue reliable indicators that help the decision-maker to develop successful plans that balance the size of the population and the distribution of educational and health services, which caused severe damage to all aspects of development in the country.
Reasons for postponement.. Corona and money
Like most countries in the world, the population census in Iraq takes place once every ten years, so it was supposed to take place in 2007, to be postponed to 2009 due to security conditions, then it was postponed ten years at once, and in 2019 it was postponed again.
According to the United Nations Population Fund in Iraq, preparations for the implementation of the census began in 2019, and it was hoped that it would be implemented in 2020, but it was postponed due to the Corona pandemic, after it was impossible for the organizers to assign 150,000 field researchers to roam homes in these circumstances, so they were forced The Ministry of Planning to postpone the project.
In 2022, Baghdad announced its intention to implement the census again, which also did not happen due to the large budget needed by the Central Statistical Organization, amounting to 120 million dollars, which the government was unable to provide at the time.
Mahdi Al-Alaq, senior advisor to the United Nations Fund, said that with the advent of the new government and the approval of the new budget, the necessary allocations have been made available to carry out the census.
And Muhammad Shia' al-Sudani, the Iraqi Prime Minister, announced this month, during his presidency of the Supreme Population Council, to provide all the necessary capabilities to complete the census on time.
Al-Sudani stressed that his government relies on the results of the census to set its policies and implement its economic programmes, as well as to prepare future plans that will help in the development of society.
Political and economic differences
Mohsen Hassan says that conducting a population census is related to determining the nature of the electoral path in Iraq, especially with regard to assigning parliamentary seats and determining the share of each province of these seats in the constitution, which often leads to obstruction of the census by some influential minorities and the provinces with fewer numbers. In order to preserve its parliamentary representation based on discretionary indicators.
Also, conducting the census will resolve the historical dispute over the eligibility to rule the disputed areas, which makes many political parties apprehensive about conducting it. Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution stipulates that an accurate census of the population of those areas be conducted, and then a referendum is held there on the desire of its residents to join the Kurdistan region or remain with Baghdad.
The results of the census will also necessitate changes in the public budget. The Kurdistan region receives a share of the budget in exchange for the percentage of its population, which is the issue that caused a permanent dispute between the two parties, after Baghdad decided to reduce the share of the region to 12.6 percent instead of 17 percent, despite the Kurdish objections to that, due to the disparity in determining the population of the region. between two sides.
The distribution of the federal general budget among the governorates is also dependent on the number of its population. Therefore, the population census represents a conflict environment on the part of the governorates seeking to increase their financial shares.
According to Hassan, the idea of conducting the census itself is still a matter of contention among the components of Iraqi society. The Kurds consider it an opportunity to show the strength of the Kurdish race, the majority of whom are in conflict areas, and through it they aim to annex the disputed areas to achieve progress in the file of self-determination, while some Iraqi clans see it as the most appropriate to show their population bloc within the framework of the province or district affiliated to it, while other clans view it Being a bad omen of the demise of its influence, and showing its weakness and minority.
This explains the announcement by some Arab tribal leaders in Kirkuk, which is disputed between Baghdad and Erbil, that they will boycott the referendum if the “demographic change” operations they accuse the Kurds of carrying out in the city since 2003 are not investigated. Despite this tense atmosphere, preparations for the new census continue
. Amid government assurances that it should be implemented on time.
“The atmosphere is now politically and economically prepared for the implementation of the census, and all we need is to make the final decision,” Al-Alaq told the “Raise Your Voice” website.
Will the census take place on time this time, or will it be postponed again?[/size]
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