Following his address to the Iraq Mining 2011 conference in London, the Chairman of Iraq's National Investment Commission, Dr Sami al-Araji, was interviewed by Padraig O'Hannelly for Iraq Business News:
Iraq Business News: Dr al-Araji, in your speech you mentioned the visa problems that Iraqis sometimes have entering the UK; what some businesses are also saying is that they have difficulty getting expat workers into Iraq … what is your opinion on this matter?
Dr Sami al-Araji: We have unemployment – officially about 15%, unofficially I don't know – they need to work, and it is unacceptable while we have unemployed people sitting around that we import people from the outside.
But it is fully understood, and fully understandable, that we can't source all the talent we need from engineers in Iraq. Nobody would ask you, for example, why did you bring in this or that. In the beginning [of an investment], you put forward your action program, you say I need engineers and so on, and these I will bring with me because they aren't available. We have a system with the Ministry of Social Affairs, where you say we need 10,000 workers, and 5,000 you will have to bring in for the following reasons, the other 5,000 we will get locally, [and say to the Ministry] “please get us the 5,000”.
And that's exactly what we are working on. Nobody is saying “oh, no, there can be no foreign workers, or if there are foreign workers we have to sit down and [verify] this or that”, the only authority is to the Ministry of Social Affairs, and they are very positive and cooperative and they try very much to help.
But what is happening is that some of the people have mismanaged this, and that's why there has been a problem.
IBN: Regarding foreign companies' perception of problems like corruption, and the Transparency International index on corruption, do you have any specific targets or plans to address that problem?
SA: We know there is some corruption, but I think very honestly it is magnified by the press and by the different committees around the world. We have made a lot of progress in fighting corruption and improving transparency, that is number one.