'Populist' social media discourse

Head of parliamentary committee calls for ‘professional’ debate over gas price hikes

BAGHDAD — Ahmad Salim Al-Kinani, head of the Parliamentary Committee on Economy, Industry, and Trade, on Saturday urged a more careful and professional approach to public discussions on the gasoline price increase, warning against politicizing this sensitive issue. He pointed out that the price adjustments are aimed at high-income individuals and could be revised to prevent adverse effects on the poor.

Protests have erupted over the government’s decision to increase fuel prices this week. There are attempts in parliament to summon the prime minister for questioning over the issue.

In a statement, Al-Kinani voiced concerns over the trend of topics being debated on social media in a ‘populist’ manner “The aim seems to be creating public confusion and politicizing these issues,” he stated.

He specifically referred to the ‘mishandling’ of debates over economic issues, such as the increase in prices for premium fuel grades, which he says are mainly used by the wealthy. Though many Iraqis contend that the lowest grade of fuel – exempt from the price rises – is of poor quality, offering less range and damaging engines.

Misrepresenting these adjustments as targeting the poor, he argued, undermines the country’s economic policies. Al-Kinani noted that the products subject to price hikes are mostly imported, costing more for public finances than the price it is sold for on the domestic market.

“We urge the public and media to approach this issue with professionalism and seriousness due to its impact on the nation’s financial and economic stability,” Al-Kinani said. He highlighted external factors like the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the impact of Israeli actions on Gaza as contributing to global economic pressures.