By Padraig O’Hannelly.
Iraq has many assets, and while oil is the first that comes to mind, we should not forget the multitudes of Iraqis who live outside their country of birth — the Iraqi diaspora.
Estimates vary, but there are probably between four and five million Iraqi-born emigrants living in a wide range of countries, and even more if we also count second-generation Iraqis; this compares to about 31 million people living in Iraq.
They left the country at different times and for different reasons, and they collectively represent a wealth of human capital that could be of huge benefit of their native land.
Many contribute to Iraq already in the form of remittances, and by advancing the Iraqi cause throughout the world, but now the Ministry of Migration and the Displaced has announced that 100 billion Iraqi dinars ($86 million) will be allocated to encourage skilled Iraqis to return home.
This is an interesting move, and it raises some questions, such as to what extent resident Iraqis will face competition from returning ex-pats, are unskilled Iraqis less welcome in their homeland than skilled Iraqis, and will government central planning dictate the professions that are to be encouraged.
But, those reservations aside, there are plenty of examples of successful diaspora harvesting to draw on; Israel and Ireland, for example, have gained from their respective diasporas either returning or simply investing from abroad, and there is no reason to believe Iraq could not do the same.
Are you an ex-pat Iraqi? Would this new initiative be enough to lure you back? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.