Iraq's electricity minister resigns over power shortage crisis

Majed Mahdi Hantoosh steps down following pressure from populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 29, 2018, a man checks the wiring on electric cables reaching out to homes in Saadoun Street in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, as chronic power shortages have forced residents to buy electricity from private entrepreneurs who run generators on street corners across the country. With a freshman at the helm, Iraq's electricity ministry is planning a long-awaited overhaul of the broken sector to both meet US pressure to halt Iranian power imports and head off summertime protests over chronic cuts. Baghdad hopes it will generate enough megawatts to feed demand by summer, when cuts can leave millions powerless for up to 20 hours per day. / AFP / SABAH ARAR
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Iraq’s Electricity Minister has tendered his resignation following power shortages across the country.

Majed Mahdi Hantoosh is stepping down as the southern provinces of Muthanna, Dhi Qar and Basra experience a full shutdown of power. In other parts of the country, the hours of available electricity have reduced, as temperatures reached 50°C.

The minister has to gain the approval of Iraq's Prime Minister, Mustafa Al Kadhimi, before his resignation takes effect.

“Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi is aware of Mr Hantoosh’s resignation,” Electricity Ministry spokesman Ahmed Musa said. He gave no further details.

Iraq needs investment in most of its industries after years of war and economic decline, but power generation is especially sensitive.

Its war-battered grid provides only a few hours of power a day, and chronic shortages were at the heart of anti-government protests in October 2019.

Iraqi populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr called for Mr Hantoosh to step down several days ago, due to the lack of electricity services across the country.

Mr Al Sadr has considerable influence over politics in the country. His political group the Sadrist Movement has a large number of seats in parliament, exerting heavy influence over the government.

In a series of tweets, Mr Al Sadr proposed several ways to solve the issue. He said corruption and mismanagement was the main problem.

Iraq's power issue can't be solved overnight or even during the tenure of a single government, especially not a transitional one like the current administration, Yesar Al Maleki, Gulf analyst at the Middle East Economic Survey, told The National.

“Better management is indeed needed but what is happening is largely political as parliamentary elections are coming in October. Electricity provision and unemployment are two main reasons for protests since 2019,” Mr Al Maleki said.

Iraq can produce an annual average of 14 gigawatts of power. This can be increased to 17GW at most if all conditions are right, while demand is more than 29GW during the summer months, he said.

“Now the supply has collapsed to 12GW,” Mr Al Maleki said.

“The gap increases every year with population growth and development. Iraq is chasing a mirage,” he said.

Updated: June 30, 2021, 10:59 AM