Baghdad mayor has ambitious plans

Baghdad mayor has ambitious plans

BAGHDAD – Agence France-Press
Baghdad mayor has ambitious plans

The mayor of Baghdad wants to revive her war-torn city, fix its decrepit infrastructure and twin it with Paris - another female-led metropolis.

Thikra Alwash, a 60-year-old civil engineer and only woman mayor of a Middle East capital, faces a mountainous task. She has given herself 10 years to revive the city, heart of the Abassid Caliphate and the centre of Arab and Muslim civilization for five centuries. Alwash has prioritized repairing war-scarred infrastructure and restoring the city’s heritage - but to do so, she needs to find the money.

“When I took up my post in 2015, the municipality was bankrupt. I was told that I had to find the financing myself,” she told AFP. “They chose a woman because we know how to pay attention to expenses. I am not saying that the services we offer the population are enough, but we are on the right track,” she said.

A former director general at Iraq’s higher education ministry, Alwash was appointed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. She said her budget, drawn from various taxes, fines and private investment, is 110 billion dinars ($90 million).

That is set to increase, thanks to a new law under which the finance ministry will pump extra tax revenues into the municipality. The budget “needs to double to make basic services work properly”, Alwash said.

Today, Baghdad has more than seven million inhabitants, up 45 percent since 2015, a year after Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized a third of Iraq. “Our priority is the proper functioning of drinking water, sewerage and garbage collection,” said Alwash, who is in charge of some 36,000 employees.