After easing almost a year of financial crisis and terrorism threat, the Kurdistan Region last week hosted the 10th Erbil International Fair attended by 250 companies from 16 countries.
In the wake of initial agreement between Erbil and Baghdad to resolve oil export and budgetary issues, and of security advances to halt the ISIS threat, market confidence begins to regain and business continues to progress.
Kurdistan Regional Government Minister of Trade and Industry, Samal Sardar, highlighted the importance of hosting the fair amid current circumstances.
He said, “The participation of companies from foreign countries might not be at the level of previous years, but hosting the fair shows that business activities have not stopped and the Kurdistan Region’s security situation is very stable for business.” Minister Samal Sardar stressed that the Region’s economy continues to improve.
The breakthrough agreement between Erbil and Baghdad on resolving outstanding issues has helped to resume and revive business activities in the Region.
Mr. Abdulla Ahmed Abdul-Rahim, supervisor of Erbil International Exhibition told krg.org, “Hosting the fair amid the current situation, especially after the initial agreement between Erbil and Baghdad, shows that Kurdistan can preserve its economic position and successfully manage crises.”
He added, “Erbil International Fair managed to build trust during the last ten years and the KRG has played a key role in developing the venue. The fairground has so far hosted more than 60 exhibitions on various sectors and has greatly benefited the people of Kurdistan.”
Representatives of private sector companies said the economic crisis and terrorist threats adversely affected their plans and caused suspension of some planed activities. However, the situation did not last long, as demonstrated by participation of international companies in various exhibitions.
Mr. Saman Brifkani, Supervisor of Magic Art Advertising Agency told krg.org, “Despite some concerns by some companies there have been various exhibitions by big brands and companies in the Kurdistan Region including Land Rover, Range Rover and BMW in which they showcased their latest products. In addition, various French, American and British franchises in Erbil’s markets and malls have recently launched.
“The breakthrough agreement between Erbil and Baghdad will strengthen trust and support increasing business activities”, he added.
On the sidelines at the fair the Czech Republic Consul General to Erbil, Jaroslav Reif, and a delegation from his country’s ministry of trade and industry discussed their activities in the Region.
The Czech Republic Consul General told krg.org, “Czech companies together with Czech banks implemented major projects in the Kurdistan Region especially in the electricity sector. We want to introduce the Kurdistan Region’s investment market to the Czech Republic and invite European investors to support investment activities in the Region.”
The Czech Republic is among the active investors in the Kurdistan Region’s investment market and has long reiterated its interest to invest in the Region.
Lebanon is among the countries that have not suspended their investment and business activities in the Kurdistan Region.
Mr. Jacques Jean Sarraf, Chairman of the Malia Group which owns various investments in the Region especially in the tourism sector told krg.org “The Lebanese private sector is keen on the Kurdistan Region and they did not suspend their activities in the Region.”
He added that his group is one of the main exporters to the Kurdistan Region and they are working on finding an alternative route for bringing their goods to the Region through air cargo as most of the Syrian and Lebanon border is under the control of the Islamic State terrorist organisation, known as ISIS.
Mr. Sarraf said, “Lebanon has played a significant role in developing the Region’s banking, construction and tourism sectors, and has contributed to the investment in the Kurdistan Region, including in basic and higher education.”
In another development, Britain Business Group Kurdistan was launched on 10 December, 2014 to further collaboration between British companies and companies based in the Kurdistan Region.
During the inaugural ceremony, Mr. Frank Baker, British Ambassador to Iraq, highlighted the Kurdistan Region as a stable and suitable environment for economic and trade activities.
During the ceremony, KRG Spokesperson Minister Safeen Dizayee reaffirmed, “The KRG supports the free market and facilitates foreign investment in the Kurdistan Region.”