Enhancing decision making in Iraq

Despite the commitment of Iraqi decision makers, ineffective regulatory and policy regimes are perceived as one of the most significant barriers to improving the country’s food security and agricultural production - a problem that partly stems from the limited capacity of Iraqi government institutions and their inability to effectively implement legislation or foresee the outcomes of official interventions in the economy. 

Policy reform is one of the key targets of the HSAD initiative, which recently facilitated a week-long workshop to strengthen the capacity of Iraqi government officials on the basics of policy-oriented economic modeling – an effort to enhance decision making and help government officials to predict the outcomes of their decisions.    

The five-day workshop, held in Amman, Jordan, and delivered by ICARDA and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), equipped participants with the knowledge and skills to fundamentally reform agricultural and food policy making in Iraq. Components included social accounting matrices, databases that represent economic transactions in a given region or country, and computable general equilibrium models, a class of economic models that interpret economic data to predict how economies react to changes in policy, technology, or external factors.     

Participants were instructed on the application of the model to an Iraqi context, taking into account shocks and policies under different macro and factor market closures, and the Iraqi national development plan which oversees the country’s development until 2017. The final day was devoted to a discussion of the plan’s agricultural goals and what economic models predicted would be the impact on economic growth, women, and household income.  

The models predicted that investments in agriculture would generate positive impacts for the economy: accelerating agriculture growth by 5 percentage points; driving wider economic growth through multiplier effects; creating higher paid jobs in non-agricultural sectors; helping to diversify the structure of Iraq’s economy; and raising the incomes of the poorest fifth of the population by an estimated 5.8% in rural areas and 16.1% in cities.  

The ability to display and analyze the outcomes of policy interventions will be further enhanced by the development of the Iraq Spatial Development and Food Security Information Tool, a novel interactive online tool that provides a full range of development-related data and provides Iraqi decision makers and other stakeholders with a ‘one-stop’ source of reliable and comprehensive geo-spatial information, assisting them in the development of appropriate policies that target improved food security and household nutrition.

Providing over 200 data layers – including climate, biophysical, and socio-economic data – the Iraq Spatial enables users to target policies where they are most needed, and help monitoring and evaluating interventions at precise locations.

The Iraq Spatial will be the first resource of its kind. Related to the more expansive Arab Spatial [www.arabspatial.org], a region-wide depository of geo-spatial information, the tool builds on this model to provide more specific national and sub-national level data to assist in the precise targeting of interventions. The feature will be officially launched in March.