Niqash met al-Fahadawi to discuss political and economic issues affecting the province.
Niqash: What were the circumstances behind your nomination as governor?
Al-Fahadawi: Dr. Saleh al-Mutlaq, the head of the National Dialogue Front, and Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of Iraq’s Revival conference, invited me to come to Anbar. Prior to responding to their invitation, I put forward two conditions. My first condition was that I work with all parties and not for any particular party or group and my second condition was that no political interference and pressure serving the interests of one party be imposed upon the provincial council. I told them that I will not support any illegal contracts and they accepted my conditions. Accordingly, I accepted the nomination, won the election and assumed my responsibilities on April 20.
Niqash: How have the people of Anbar responded to your new position?
Al-Fahadawi: When I first returned to the province I felt like it had been hit by a nuclear bomb. The vital facilities have been destroyed and peoples’ mentalities have been infected. It is easy to rebuild the province’s infrastructure but it is difficult to rebuild people’s damaged ethics that have been infected and devastated.
Niqash: What do you mean by infected hearts?
Al-Fahadawi: I will give you a simple example of what I mean. In normal conditions, society isolates people who misuse government funds. Here, the opposite is happening. Those who steal are rewarded and respected. We should seek to re-build people’s damaged mentalities and morals and rid the province from the widely spread culture of corruption through the use of the media, educational institutions, preachers and with the help of the Awqaf commission.
Niqash: How would you describe the institutional conditions in the province - the technical and administrative structure?
Al-Fahadawi: When an individual is separated from his environment he seems to be a good citizen, but the problem lies in the existing wrong environment. There are no correct or clear administrative instructions and there are unhealthy relations between different departments. I believe that the province’s citizens have lived in a state of emergency due to terrorism and insecurity. They were not able to settle down and were moving from one place to another. They are not yet sure that conditions are stable and that life will go back to its normal momentum. I did not witness these difficult days and I came back with an open mentality to re-arrange work in a coordinated, legal and formal manner.
Niqash: How are you going to manage a province with a tribal nature?
Al-Fahadawi: The tribal system is not a good management system. I have the capacity to act as an official according to the law. I am the son of this province and people know me from my previous work. Everybody should be treated equally under the law. I will not be pressured and I will not allow anyone to compel me to do anything against my beliefs.
Niqash: What were the results of your meetings with officials in Baghdad?
Al-Fahadawi: I had several meetings with the President of the Republic in Baghdad. My visit was protocol and we exchanged ideas. With the Prime Minister, I discussed the province’s budget and the debts of 2008. We also met with the Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Rafi al-Issawi and a number of ministers. They all support us and are ready to help us in solving the province’s financial and administrative problems and in providing the province with services.
Niqash: What is the size of the debt?
Al-Fahadawi: There are accumulated debts of 211 billion Iraqi dinars [approximately US $181 million] from last year. This is the problem we are currently facing and trying to find solutions to, especially as there are still 21 projects from last year that have not yet been completed. We will try to manage with the amount we have and we will implement the 2009 plan. We will ask the central government – which is in the end responsible for us - to help us solve the problem.
Niqash: What about the development of the province’s infrastructure badly damaged by al-Qaeda attacks and government military operations?
Al-Fahadawi: There are many projects that we want to implement and many services that will soon be provided and we will soon announce these projects. We are still at the beginning of a long road and we are trying to solve the problem of the accumulated debts and other financial related difficulties.
Niqash: What are the major service-related challenges?
Al-Fahadawi: The challenge ahead of us is to improve the supply of electricity with the assistance of the ministers of electricity and industry. There are now many efforts to create an electricity plant in Haditha, which is supposed to cover half of the electricity needs of the province. This plant was supposed to start producing energy two years ago or even one year ago, but this has not yet happened. We planned a timetable of 26 months but we will put effort into completing the project in four months time. We also plan to establish two plants in Ramadi and in Fallujah.
Niqash: What about investments projects and investors?
Al-Fahadawi: We have signed preliminary contracts with a number of Korean companies such as Joe Bank Total Energy to build a residential complex on the banks of al-Habaniya lake. The project includes the construction of 16,000 residential units, government buildings, electricity plants, hospitals, a sports city and other services needed by the province. The contract has been submitted to the central government in order to obtain a guarantee from the Central Bank. The payment method is timely payment in return for a bank guarantee issued by the Central Bank. This project is part of crucial investment projects which will make Ramadi a modern city.
Niqash: What about the fears of Iraqi businesses of Arab and foreign investors?
Al-Fahadawi: Up until now I have not found any contractor who is delivering a good job. There is no reason for fear. There are plenty of opportunities for everyone. Arab and foreign investors provide Iraqis with an opportunity to benefit from advanced experiences and modern technologies existing elsewhere.