Dr Sami al-Araji Speaks with Iraq Business News

Number two, nobody from the foreign companies came in to us directly and said, for example, there is corruption in such and such a place that I was subjected to and we did not take action. As a matter of fact we take immediate action, although in my tenure as head of the National Investment Commission nobody has come in and said I was subjected to such and such, otherwise I would have taken immediate action and put them in the hands of the law and they will take care of them.

To tell me there is no corruption, I say there is, probably, but where is it? We talk about it a lot but we don’t see it in action because no-one has come out and said “he is a corrupt individual”.

We now have the One-Stop Shop, to try to give the individual all the security and all the protection, and to protect both sides, because you could come in and apply to us, or to one of the provincial investment commissions, and then we have to take the process all the way to the end.

We have not reached the point of high efficiency in that because of a lot of bureaucracy, and we are at a stage where we are transferring from a centrally-guided economy to a market economy, so we are faced with some difficulty, because the investment culture and the entrepreneurial spirit and the market economy are all new to Iraq right now, so things still take time.

The law says you have to ask the line ministry or reference entity for their opinion [of a project] and if they don’t answer you with in 15 days then it is considered accepted and finished with. But in practice a lot of it is not done in 15 days, it takes longer, and we cannot say to the investor, “OK go ahead, because they did not answer therefore it is approved”, because when he goes outside to follow his transaction they say “well we did not give you the approval”.

So that’s why we take a little bit of time to ensure that it succeeds, everybody signs, everybody respects the decision, and then move ahead. But, believe me, we are making progress on all these areas – it’s not yet up to the level that we want, but definitely we will reach it soon.

IBN: Iraq has clearly made a lot of progress in recent years … where do you see Iraq in 3 to 5 years from now?

SA: Let me tell you that all the indications say that 2 years from now Iraq will be one of the fastest developing nations in the world, and this is a fact. And if we are going to be among the fastest developing nations worldwide we have to move on all fronts, on all the economic sectors of the country, on oil and gas, on industry, on agriculture, on infrastructure and so on.

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