The first day of the Erbil Business Conference highlighted the interest of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to attract investment and to operate within the principles of open markets whilst battling the perception that it is a dangerous place to operate.
The Conference started with a speech by the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan, Nerchivan Barzani, read by the Minister of Trade on his behalf. The PM stated that KRG has a policy of encouraging an open market, but developing this needs help from the United Kingdom.
Baroness Nicholson, UK Trade Envoy for Iraq and IBBC Chairman, emphasised that many of the successes of Iraq in the last decade have been in small to medium sized businesses.
The event is jointly hosted by the Kurdistan Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the IBBC, with the Federation of Iraqi Chambers of Commerce. The conference has been attended by authorities from both KRG and the Iraqi Central Government, more than 400 delegates and a mission of 30 IBBC members. Sessions have included topics such as banking and insurance, the built environment and oil and gas.
There were discussions on the need to encourage the private sector, the great opportunities in building and construction including planned civic buildings, and the success of Zaha Hadid’s Central Bank of Iraq Project partly thanks to the independence of the institution and the assistance provided by the financial services volunteer corps.
The Oil and Gas panel highlighted the challenges the industry faces such as security problems, lack of skilled labour, availability of materials and credit delays. However the panel highlighted that Kurdistan is an easier area to work in than elsewhere in Iraq, being less bureaucratic and more independent thinking.