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.
Iraqi Foreign Minister, Dr. Ibrahim Al Jaafari, received the Armenian Ambassador to Iraq, Karen Grigoryan, at his office on Sunday, and discussed with him bilateral relations, opening joint cooperation horizons through accelerating the preparation for holding the first meeting of the Iraqi-Armenian Committee, excluding the diplomats from visas, facilitating the procedures for granting visas, and opening a consulate in Erbil.
Jaafari received an invitation from his Armenian counterpart to visit Armenia. He asserted that Iraq seeks to open to the world countries on the basis of mutual interests and facing common threats, adding that he would visit Armenia to boost relations.
For his part, the Armenian Ambassador stressed his country’s keenness on enhancing bilateral relations, noting that Armenia is providing lots of aids to the displaced Iraqi families, thanking the Iraqi government for exerting efforts to preserve the security and safety of the minorities in Iraq.
Worldwide Recruitment Solutions (WRS), an international recruitment company serving the needs of oil and gas consultancies, contractors, operators and service companies, are now fully operational in the Kurdistan region.
WRS’ Erbil office, located on Golan Street in the increasingly popular and cosmopolitan city of Erbil, opened early in 2015.
Managing Director Mark Brown explains the thought process behind their decision to invest in Kurdistan:
“We ultimately chose Kurdistan following several trade missions to the region where we saw a wealth of opportunities in a fast developing market.”
Worldwide Recruitment Solutions are now actively seeking both local and expatriate talent within the Kurdistan region, and are also building their network of Kurdish professionals in other areas of the world who may be looking to return to the region.
WRS’ Country Manager for Kurdistan, Jonathan Mooney, is already enjoying life in Erbil:
“It’s a cosmopolitan city with plenty of things to do and the opportunities for networking here are great. At the moment I’m focusing on building our client and candidate base and meeting as many professionals in Kurdistan as I can.”
A high ranking delegation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, headed by Mr. Abdul-Rahman al-Shahri, visited Kurdistan Region to prepare the opening of the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Erbil in a near future.
In a meeting held yesterday with the Kurdistan Region Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, Mr. al-Shahri stated that the decision of opening the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Erbil was taken personally by His Majesty King Abdulla bin Abdul-Aziz.
He expressed his hope that it would help developing and strengthening the relations between Erbil and Riyadh in various fields, including providing assistance to those who wish to accomplish their duty of Hajj or Umrah pilgrimage.
He pointed out that opening of the Consulate in Erbil will take place shortly after the Saudi Arabian Embassy begins its mission in Baghdad, which is expected to be soon.
Prime Minister Barzani welcomed the decision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to open an Embassy in Baghdad and a Consulate in Erbil. He said that opening the Embassy in Baghdad would help the normalisation and development of ties between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
He added that whilst relations between Saudi Arabia and the Kurdistan Region have always been friendly, it is hoped that they would further develop in the future, helping to encourage Saudi Arabian investment in the Kurdistan Region.
The Prime Minister also reiterated that the Kurdistan Regional Government is ready to provide all the assistance and cooperation necessary for the opening of the Saudi Arabian Consulate.
According to current plans, the Kurdish region of Iraq will be able to export 1 million barrels of oil in the not too distant future–by some accounts by the end of 2015.
By 2020 as much as 10 billion cubic metres of gas will be exported from the region to Turkey under a 2013 agreement and this could rise to 20 bcm.
In the south of Iraq, this is rivalled by some ambitious expansion plans with Iraq’s South Oil Company, BP and PetroChina leading the charge at Rumaila, where they recently announced plans to double production at the super-giant field.
Meanwhile, the Shell-Petronas-Missan consortium continue plans at the vast Majnoon field. As the axis of global energy consumption shifts east, such expansion remains justified even as prices have tumbled.
But while the history of oil and gas in southern Iraq goes back decades, the Kurdish region remains in many ways an energy frontier. For example, in 2009 there were no official exports while today the Taq Taq and Tawke fields alone will bring an extra 160,000 bpd available for export and processing by the end of 2015.That impressive point was not the most important thing mentioned at the 4th Kurdistan-Iraq Oil and Gas Conference in London, a superbly well-organized event from CWC.
The three day conference provided delegates with nothing less than an immersive experience of the Iraqi energy sector and its emerging opportunities.
According to a 2009 revision of Iraq’s Provincial Powers Act (also known as Law 21) the province of Basra is supposed to be receiving an extra $5 dollars of oil revenue per barrel produced in the province.
If this was the case, the province could be receiving an income equivalent to that of some small countries.
To date however, this has not been the case for both political and economic reasons and currently the province receives much less than its entitlement. This is of critical importance, because the province produces most of Iraq’s oil.
This situation might be about to change. The current governor, Majid al-Nasrawi, had his position strongly contested by former PM Maliki, who opposed decentralising power from Baghdad.
Now Maliki is on the sidelines and the Ministry of Oil is headed by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq member Abdel Adel Mehdi, of the same party of the Basra governor. Given that Maliki is now longer in the seat of power, we might expect more power to be devolved to provinces like Basra.
Abdel Mehdi hinted a new arrangement could be on the horizon, noting recently that the government were looking for “fairer ways to share revenue with the provinces” to include Basra and not just the Kurdish provinces.
Certainly, the political alignment of Basra and the Oil Ministry through ISCI, a party which pursued a strong federalist agenda in the 2009 election could see some interesting developments. If the current Baghdad-Arbil deal holds, we might expect a new deal for the southern provinces.
In the long term, such federalised arrangements could lead to greater security in Iraq as a whole, since the war torn provinces of Anbar and Ninewa also have oil and gas reserves, although not on the scale of the KRI and the south.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and World Food Programme (WFP) have collaborated to deliver eight mobile medical clinics which arrived in Erbil on Sunday.
These urgently needed clinics will be immediately deployed to parts of Iraq and Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). The vehicles, flown in from Amman, Jordan, were procured by WHO and have been purpose-built to address the health needs of displaced populations residing in places with limited access to health care services – in camps, informal settlements and urban areas across the country.
The clinics were made possible through the support of the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and are the first of their kind to be brought to Iraq to accelerate response efforts.
To mark the arrival of the mobile clinics, a ceremony set to host the Ministers of Health of both Iraq and KRI governments, a delegation from the government of Saudi Arabia, and representatives from WHO and WFP, will be held at Erbil airport on Wednesday.
“We are very pleased about the arrival of these new mobile clinics which will provide round-the-clock health services for vulnerable populations in Iraq,” said Dr Jaffar Hussein, WHO Representative for Iraq.
“Not only are mobile health clinics swift and relatively cost-efficient, they also enable health care to be provided as close as possible to affected communities. Each clinic has the capacity to support patient examinations, vaccinations for children, diagnosis and laboratory confirmation of diseases, pre- and antenatal care, the treatment of minor conditions such as skin infections, management of minor wounds, and to address dehydration,” he said.