The Ministry of Construction in Iraq has just spent $250 million on weighbridges from a company based in the British Midlands, for use at border crossings; as Iraqis buys more and more overseas goods, it is important to ensure that the trucks entering the country comply with the regulations on weights.
“The economy is expanding so fast we have thousands of trucks flooding across the borders each day and transport companies often try to combine loads. To minimise damage to our infrastructure we invested in a sophisticated British-made weighbridge to speed up the checking at busy border crossing points”, Minister Mohammed Sahib al-Darraji, told me.
The Iraqi Government wanted to send 100 engineers to the UK for training and this caused the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to implode. Only after the Minister of Construction personally called the UKBA and threatened to cancel the contract did the visas come through …… in double quick time. The engineers are off to the UK on the 19th of April.
The UK Visa system for Iraqi nationals travelling to the UK has not changed in any material way for the last 8 years. Iraq has become a major source of potential contracts, jobs and income for UK companies, but with the UK Government requiring government officials responsible for spending billions to sit around in Amman for a week before being told if they can travel it is likely that much of the work will be fed into countries that are more supportive of a transitional economy emerging from 40 years of conflict.
There have been offers from private companies to meet the costs of the UK Government to set up visa posts in Baghdad and Basra if the Treasury coffers are that stretched. Having set up a number of business the one thing you learn very early on is not to muck about your customers, because they just buy from someone else.
It is now well past the time when the UK Government stops assuming Iraqis applying for a UK Visa are probable refugees and work on the assumption that they just might want to buy stuff from the UK and create some jobs!