$20M good news for AUIS – but how to improve education for all?

KT News and Comment:

American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUIS)

American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUIS)

The Anglo-Turkish oil giant Genel Energy has donated $20 million to The American University of Iraq – Slemani (AUIS).  Dr. Athanasios Moulakis, president of the AUIS, has expressed his gratitude: “We thank the Genel Energy for their generous donation. We also thank the (KRG) Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister and both Ministry of Natural Resources and Ministry of Higher Education for their continual support.”

While any improvement in higher education in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region is to be welcomed, inevitably there is speculation about a possible link between this donation, brokered by the KRG,  and the highly favourable contracts that the KRG gives to oil companies like Genel Energy.

The product sharing agreements granted to these companies are widely criticised because they are of a kind usually offered in countries with high security risks and civil wars. This is far from the situation nowadays in the Kurdistan Region.

Arguably the KRG should give OPEC-standard Technical Service Contracts to these oil companies. This could generate much more than $20 million in additional public funds which could be devoted to improving public education for a wide section of the population, starting by tackling the chronic shortage of school classroom places.

The AUIS does good work but access to it is is generally reserved for the sons and daughters of the wealthy who can afford to pay large tuition fees – including the offspring of Kurdistan’s new oligarchs.

Hawlati this week published a list of donors to the AUIS in recent years, featuring several prominent members of the oligarchy. The list includes Nechirvan Barzani, KRG prime minister (who has donated $30 million), Imad Ahmed, deputy prime minister ($15 million),  Omer Fatah, a PUK politburo member accused of corruption on an epic scale, whose case has been postponed ($20 million) and Iraq president Jalal Talabani ($2 million). Their generosity towards the AUIS gives just a hint of the “rags to riches” tale of Kurdistan’s oligarchs who have accumulated fabulous wealth in the two decades since their parties took hold of the reins of power.

Copyright © 2013 Kurdistantribune.com

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