Dubai UAE developers and companies are considering investments worth $70 billion (Dh257 billion) throughout Iraq, according to a top Iraqi official.
“UAE companies are considering plans to construct 150,000 housing units throughout Iraq,” Sami Al Araji, chairman of Iraq’s National Investment, was quoted by WAM as saying at a conference in Erbil, Kurdistan yesterday, where the UAE-Iraqi Businessmen’s Forum was launched.
“In the Kurdistan region alone, 140,000 units, out of a total of one million for all Iraq, are being considered by the Commission.”
Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region Barham Saleh urged UAE companies and investors to take advantage of the region’s economic reforms and use the region as a gateway to the rest of Iraq.
“Our region serves as a bridge into the rest of Iraq as well as to the peoples of regional countries,” he told delegates.
Saleh said the UAE is invited to provide help and expertise to help the region’s government in its efforts to overcome legal, administrative and bureaucratic hurdles to the economic reforms which could drive household income to $4,500.
Efforts are being made by the regional government to enact foreign ownership legislation and attract more foreign direct investments which are estimated now at $12.5 billion.
Amendments to the current regulations this year would allow 100 per cent foreign ownership of housing developments.
UAE exports to Iraq, meanwhile, jumped 41 per cent last year to $4.24 billion while Iraq’s exports to the UAE market grew by 952 per cent to $778 million, according to Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of Foreign Trade, who lead the UAE delegation at the forum, attended by Saleh.
Despite what Shaikha Lubna described as a noticeable slowdown in international trade, she said: “Non-oil trade between our two countries increased by 63 per cent, rising from $3.79 billion in 2008 to $5.19 billion in 2009, making Iraq the 11th global trade partner of the UAE, and the second Arab trade partner”.
Shaikha Lubna shared with the forum the latest economic developments in the UAE.
“Our economy has demonstrated its dynamism and strong diversity, to the extent that non-oil sectors contributed 66 per cent of the overall GDP in 2009, and we expect our economic growth to grow further by 2.5 per cent this year.”
In 2009, the UAE’s foreign trade showed a lot of positive indicators and signs of strength as the country continued to follow a trade policy based on trade openness and achieving balance in an international market that is influenced by 192 countries, 153 of which are members of the World Trade Organisation, according to the minister.