RIYADH: The world’s fastest population growth is accelerating the need for a more diversified economic system in oil-dependent Iraq, according to a top government minister.

Iraqi Prime Minister Financial Affairs Adviser Mazhar Mohammed Saleh called for a new “social market” to reduce oil dependence and boost investment in key sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture and tourism and service areas, Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported.

Saleh warned against depending on oil until 2050 without diversifying the sources of national income.

The population growth in Iraq is not less than 2.6 percent annually- the highest in the world, Saleh told INA.

The country depends on oil, which constitutes 45 percent of the GDP and affects about 80 percent of the growth of the economy, contributing to 93 percent of the government’s revenues, he explained.

“More than 8 million Iraqis receive salaries, a pension, a grant or a social benefit from the state, which means that the majority of the Iraqi people receive income from oil revenues under the family support system,” he said. “The country’s population increase by one million people annually, and the employment rates at low annual levels, will cumulatively affect the risks of production disruption and the increase in unemployment among young people, which is currently approximately 23 percent.”

Iraq’s population reached 40.1 million at the end of last year, according to data from the Ministry of Planning.

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