No Excuse for Excessive Holidays

No Excuse for Excessive Holidays

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

A recent report from Al Monitor highlights the shocking number of official and unofficial holidays in Iraq, and the affect that this is having on commercial activity and education. But that’s just part of the picture.

Due to its plentiful oil reserves, many would consider Iraq to be an example of a rentier state, whose main function is to distribute the profits from exported natural resources.

It might sound like a good deal, but at current oil prices Iraq will have difficulty balancing its budget if it also wants to defeat the Islamic State and continue with its program of building houses and developing infrastructure.

Over-staffing in the public sector and excessively generous public holidays will not help the country achieve those objectives.

With the amount of work still to be done in Iraq, the abundance of its natural resources is no excuse for allowing its human resources to lie idle.

(Flag image via Shutterstock)

Posted in Blog, Employment, Industry & Trade, Oil & Gas1 Comment

Iraq Britain Business Council: Accentuating the Positive

Iraq Britain Business Council: Accentuating the Positive

By Robert Tollast.

Luay al-Khairullah has reason to be optimistic. As Chairman of the Dhi Qar Provincial Investment Commission, I spoke to him last year about the planned Nasiriyah Integrated Project (NIP) a 300,000 barrel a day capacity refinery not far from his home town.

It’s a project that will create much needed jobs and provide cheaper fuel for Iraqis.

The NIP is just one of several vital strategic projects for Iraq, some progressing such as the multi billion dollar Grand al Faw port project and the Karbala refinery (a Hyandai led project).

Other projects are still in the blueprint stage. Zaha Hadid’s avant garde design for a new Central Bank of Iraq is one such audacious project, and many more are in the pipeline- Iraq’s second biggest resource is surely ambition.

But Dr.al Khairullah’s humble, quiet demeanor quickly turned to near excitement when I mentioned the possibility of greater tourism in Iraq’s famous southern marshes.

This was “already being prepared for” and soon the province was planning an international showcase for the many sites to visit in the south such as the iconic Sumerian Ziggurat, the Mudhifs of the ancient Marsh Arab culture and the museums of antiquities.

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Posted in Blog, Robert Tollast0 Comments

Iraq — Accentuating the Positive

Iraq — Accentuating the Positive

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

Yesterday in London, the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) held its annual conference, this year under the banner: “Iraq — Accentuating the Positive“.

And in contrast to the prevailing media depiction of Iraq, the tone was indeed very positive, with a full house of senior executives, diplomats and public officials sharing their views and experiences of business in Iraq.

The following sound-bites will give you a small taste of the mood of the event:

We are very encouraged by the new cabinet team … the first words that [Prime Minister Abadi] said to me are ‘we want to remove everything that gets in the way of you delivering your projects’.

Hans Nijkamp, Vice President and Country Chairman for Shell in Iraq.

We have faith in the future of Iraq, both in the polity and … the market.

Nick Archer, Managing Director, Policy and Network Developent, UKTI.

“We want British companies and other international companies to come and participate in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Dara al Rasheed, Deputy Minister for Housing and Construction.

But as ever, the availabilty of visas remains a problem, both for companies wishing to bring people into Iraq, and for Iraqis intending to visit the United Kingdom. This was highlighted by many speakers, and is clearly still an obstacle to trade and development.

(Flag image via Shutterstock)

Posted in Blog, Industry & Trade0 Comments

Haider al Abadi: Bringing Strategy to the Table

Haider al Abadi: Bringing Strategy to the Table

By Robert Tollast.

“How is electricity?”, I asked. “Excellent” replied Marwan, a young student of Physics at the University of Dhi Qar. Marwan (not his real name) is studying wireless transmission, and one of his lecturers is currently in Leicester studying with a British Council initiative to bolster the academic capacity of Iraqi universities.

Will Marwan’s lecturer return to find his university campus an empty bullet scarred shell? This might have been the case in southern Iraq in the spring uprising of 1991, or in 2003 as US Marines fought through the town of Nasiriyah.

Today, across the Kurdish region of Iraq and many areas of the expansive south, violence is often in the forefront of peoples’ minds, but this is mostly because Iraq is a nation at war. Countless Iraqis have volunteered to fight ISIL in what must surely seem like another tragic episode in a long, tragic history.

Incredible as it may seem, the war is actually quite far away for approximately 7 million Iraqi Arabs and Kurds. And their local leaders have set their sights on business, as much as the war on ISIL. Of course, local momentum isn’t much without a coordinating strategy at the national level. For the first time in decades, Iraq might have found the man to coordinate such a strategy.

Nonetheless, there can be no doubt that since June this year Iraq has confronted an existential crisis. But it is a crisis that Iraq can survive. And while it would be naive if not impossible to gloss over the tragedy that Iraq is enduring, we need to look at the whole country – a country almost the size of France, to get the full picture.

We could even allow a little room for optimism, firstly because there are vast, heavily populated areas of Iraq that are effectively walled off from ISIL. These areas host the country’s only “skyscraper” style office buildings, expanding ports and the super giant oil fields that are crucial for supporting the global economy.

A second reason for a modicum of hope is that in the centre and north of the country, ISIL are being challenged by a growing (albeit peculiar) coalition. History shows us that strange coalitions are not barred from victory. On the contrary, they are essential to victory.

In terms of the geographical limits to this current terrorist blitzkrieg, think of Stalin’s tank factories that were located east of Moscow, out of reach of Hitler’s bombers, or Washington in 1864, impregnable to Confederate assaults.

Basra and Nasiriyah are similarly insulated from terrorist activity, and as long as this situation remains Iraq will probably weather this storm. The Iraqi army’s recent victory at Jurf al Sakhar is solid evidence that if anything, the approaches to the south are looking more secure than ever.

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Posted in Blog, Robert Tollast0 Comments

Survey Results – State of Iraq 2014

Survey Results – State of Iraq 2014

Throughout August 2014, Iraq Business News polled readers for their opinions on the state of Iraq.

As expected, the results indicate a more challenging environment in the country over the preceding year.

But while the sample size and methodology do not allow us to claim statistical significance, the results tend to show a long-term commitment to Iraq as a place to do business – less than half of respondents expect to reduce their exposure to Iraq in the coming year, with 36 percent expecting to invest more.

It is important to note that this poll was taken before the successful appointment of the new cabinet, and before the escalation of airstrikes against the Islamic State, and so may be more a reflection of past concerns than of current hopes for the future.

As “a picture is worth a thousand words”, we’ve put our results in a helpful infographic format that we hope you will find useful

IBN Infographic

(Flag image via Shutterstock)

Posted in Blog, Industry & Trade, Oil & Gas, Security1 Comment

Business Still Being done in Iraq

Business Still Being done in Iraq

Despite media reports to the contrary, business is still being done in Iraq, and Iraq Business News is the place to learn about it.

Some random examples from the past week include further progress and stage payments to Hanwha for the construction of the Bismaya New City housing development, a $278-million drilling contract for Halliburton at West Qurna-1, and opening of a Latvian-based lingerie store in Najaf.

And for future deals, check out the new opportunities in our Tenders section — it’s all free of charge to readers of Iraq Business News.

(Flag image via Shutterstock)

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Time to Bite the Bullet

Time to Bite the Bullet

If Iraq didn’t face enough challenges already, the slump in the price of crude oil is another unwelcome development for the new Abadi government to deal with.

At a current price of $81.78, the benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude is down nearly 25 percent from its June high, driven in part by a strong US dollar and weak Chinese demand.

This comes at a time when Iraq needs all the funds it can get to bolster its defences and eventually eliminate the existential threat from the Islamic State.

As difficult as it will be, Iraq’s parliament must finally agree a budget for this year based on the unpalatable reality that it is now facing.

It must also bite the bullet and accept that in order to fund the war for its survival, public sector cuts will be needed in 2015, and that it may have to run a budget deficit.

A devaluation of the Iraqi dinar is one possible consequence of a budget deficit, but this would also help the balance of payments and leave Iraq in a more competitive position.

Ignoring the budget problem won’t make it go away.

(Flag image via Shutterstock)

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Living In The Future

Living In The Future

By Mariam Zara.

This article was original published by Nina Magazine, (www.nina-iraq.com) and is republished here with their permission.

I am a 14 year old Iraqi lady with a big dream for my country. Although I live in Turkey now, all my life I was very interested in my family’s background, but now, to my mind, it lies in shattered pieces on the ground.

When I see how amazing my parents’ childhood was before, it just makes me feel guilty today. Somehow I should be doing something to recreate this, to help. My aspirations now are based on this. Whenever I share this someone, they just say “Wow!”.

Quite simply, I would like to spend my future working towards helping a country grow and develop, to reach what it should be. For obvious reasons the country I would like to work in is Iraq.

To do this effectively I have two alternatives: I either work with the United Nations or I create my very own charity (NGO). I have experienced a UN conference, albeit as a model for juniors, as our school always participates in this annual ‘model conference’ initiative. Last year, I was the ambassador for China and represented them in the UN. This year I am delighted to be to contributing to the ICJ (International Court of Justice).

Iraq used to be one of the richest countries in the world, and now it’s poor in so many ways. Some people would be surprised to hear that Iraq invented many things we would find it difficult to do without today, such as: soap, syringes and ink. We even contributed to the invention of the symbol (or numeral) zero. Lots of people underestimate Iraqi citizens.

This is because they lump together our country’s culture with conflict, polarized beliefs…etc. In my opinion this is just absurd. We Iraqis have a very rich and colorful background that no other country has. I believe that as women of Iraq, we have the power and knowledge to support the development of Iraq in many different ways.

We should start by giving all Iraqi citizens Human Rights. This includes the rights of respect, including respect for all beliefs -irrespective of whether people are Muslim, Christian or within different groups within these main religions.

I believe that citizens should have freedom of speech coupled with strong guidelines that support a society of mutual respect. This will ensure that Iraq is properly represented on the world stage.

In order to develop Iraq, we need global support. Different aspects of development such as education, health care, economy must be dealt with; especially for women.

My country has the people, the knowledge and the power, all we need is the support!

Posted in Blog, Education & Training, PoliticsComments Off

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