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!

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The Time is Now

The Time is Now

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

What are we to make of the current situation in Iraq? The country has a new government, which is a positive development, but the Prime Minister’s nominations for some key posts have been rejected.

Meanwhile, the US is hitting the Islamic State (IS) with airstrikes, but President Obama confirms that there will be no ‘combat mission’ on the ground.

Understandably, many are wondering what all of this means for redevelopment and commercial activity in the country. In discussion yesterday with the UK’s Trade Envoy to Iraq, Baroness Nicholson, I got a very definite answer to that question:

“The response of America and its allies to the threat of IS is a clear signal that Iraqis will not be left isolated. Defending the population from terrorism will be a priority and a challenge for years to come, but the international community is committed to stand with Iraq for the long haul.

“That message has been heard clearly around the world, and international businesses are already stepping up their activities in many areas of the country; the time to invest in Iraq is most definitely now!”

To emphasise the point, Baroness Nicholson said that in recent weeks three new members have joined the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC), which she also chairs. “Each new member is another vote of confidence in the future of Iraq“, she added.

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Moving Beyond Tribalism

Moving Beyond Tribalism

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

The world has broadly welcomed the approval by the Iraqi parliament of the new cabinet of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

While the formulation of the new cabinet attempts to keep all factions involved and working together, it was clear from al-Abadi’s speech that his arm was twisted in the negotiations, and that given free rein he would have picked a different team.

It remains to be seen whether the allocation of prestigious titles to former Prime Ministers Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi, for example, will facilitate co-operation between the rival factions, or simply serve as a reminder of the old tribal conflicts that hold the country back.

The new government’s first priority must be the containment and ultimate defeat of the Islamic State, and this will require a major shake-up of the armed forces. With that in mind, the key ministries of defense and the interior are expected to be announced next week, and is to be hoped that these appointments can be made on the basis of suitability rather than tribe.

(Flag image via Shutterstock)

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Mobile Miracles  –  Educational Vision

Mobile Miracles – Educational Vision

Madeleine White is a capacity building specialist and Editor-in-Chief of nina-iraq.com

In the last few weeks Nina has run three major interviews. We have spoken to Iraqi civil society leader and global Vital Voices winner Suaad Allami, women’s rights activist and MP Mayson Damaluji as well as Kurdish politician and business leader Parwen Babaker. All three have cited education, linked to inward investment, as being crucial if the current situation in Iraq is to be combatted – and eventually consigned to the distant pages of history.

All wanted to promote business as usual with good education and linked training opportunities for all complementing the region’s natural resources. Today however, a report issued by Al Fanar (regional higher education dossier) highlights that higher education is becoming nigh on impossible to access in Northern Iraq, announcing that IS has shut down 8 universities.

There is obviously no short term, easy answer but I do want to present a perspective, based on my belief that educational technology coupled with the scalability and accessibility of the internet can transform lives.  Good content when coupled with satellite broadband can be especially powerful when access to formal educational opportunities are denied; as even the most remote rural or conflict areas can be reached. With the regional challenges being what they are at the moment, putting in place a way to ensure uninterrupted access to education and training might prove to be game-changing in the medium to longer term.

The 2013 the Arab States Mobile Observatory Report issued by GSM Association (representing all mobile operators) suggests that by 2025 spectrum release broadband penetration in Iraq would lead to an increase of +9.5 million in mobile connections which in turn would  lead to  4.8% GDP growth. This translates to +US $10.5 billion with an estimated job creation figure of +727,400. Currently mobile penetration in Iraq stands at around 85%.

These figures complement a growing body of expert studies that create a break-down of how mobile telephony impacts economic growth and productivity. Many development economists have come to recognise mobile as a core means by which societies and economies can transform and grow. Mobile phones in the region are evolving from simple communication tools into service delivery platforms. But how much more important is this virtual reach in nation building when mainstream access is threatened or has been removed?

Studies show that good quality educational content, delivered in a way that is non-discriminatory (independent of gender religion race etc.) creates an environment that fosters collaboration and growth; linked to the reach of mobile broadband as described above the benefits can be significant. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) have long been an understood supplement to – or even alternative to traditional methods at higher education level.

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Getting the Balance Right

Getting the Balance Right

Iraq-watchers are eagerly awaiting the announcement of Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi’s proposed cabinet, which is due to be put before parliament in the coming week.

As always, it will be a difficult balancing act, but now more than ever it will be crucial to get that balance right.

Under ‘normal’ circumstances, it would seem sensible to reduce the number of ministries from more than 30 at present, but the fine tuning required to get agreement among the competing factions will make this difficult in practice.

With much riding on the outcome, it is clear that Haider al-Abadi has the support of many both inside and outside Iraq, and we look forward to seeing the results of his four weeks of deliberations.

(Flag image via Shutterstock)

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Your Opinions Matter!

Your Opinions Matter!

As the situation in Iraq changes day by day, we are more interested than ever to hear your views on the developments in the country.

Many of you have been kind enough to participate in our first online survey – State of Iraq 2014 — and we’d like to say a big “Thank You” for your contribution.

For anyone who has not yet been able to take part, we are keeping the survey open, and would welcome your opinions. The survey consists of ten short multiple-choice questions and will only take a minute to complete.

We expect to publish results in early September.

Thanking you in advance,

Your Iraq Business News team.

Please click here to take part in our survey.

(Flag image via Shutterstock)

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Online Survey: State of Iraq 2014

Online Survey: State of Iraq 2014

It’s a well-known fact that Iraq Business News has the best-informed and most influential readers – you!

Now we want to hear your opinions about the current state of the country: How easy is it to do business? How is the security situation affecting you? And who do you think will lead it for the next four years?

So we invite you take part in our first online survey – State of Iraq 2014 — and can tell us what you think. It’s ten short multiple-choice questions which will only take a minute to complete.

We expect to publish results in early September.

Thanking you in advance,

Your Iraq Business News team.

Please click here to take part in our survey.

(Flag image via Shutterstock)

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