British companies need to move fast if they are to gain a foothold in Iraq and avoid losing out to their competitors.
This was the clear message given at the Middle East Association’s ‘Iraq: Untapped Opportunities’ conference held on 22nd November at the Dorchester Hotel, London.
Supported by the National Investment Commission of Iraq, UK Trade & Investment and Allurentis, the event was sponsored by Shell, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Petrofac and Mott MacDonald and attended by over 230 business and government representatives. A strong Iraqi delegation attended, led by HE Dr Hussein al-Shahristani, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy and including HE Dr Khairallah Hassan Babiker, Minister of Trade; HE Mr Herish Muharam, Chairman of the Kurdistan Regional Board of Investment; and Dr Abbas Al Sa’adi, Adviser and General Director of Legal Directorate of the General Secretary of the Council of Ministers.
Opening the conference Middle East Association Director General Charles Hollis commented that Iraq is now entering a more stable phase, and opportunities for business are growing. “We need to replicate the UK success in the Kurdistan region throughout the whole of the country,” he said, adding that the Association is looking to organise a trade mission to Baghdad and Basra within the next twelve months.
In a keynote speech, HE Dr al-Shahristani urged British companies to participate in Iraq’s unprecedented reconstruction and development programme “for the benefit of all parties.” He underlined the Iraqi government’s commitment to creating a conducive environment for foreign investors through the generous benefits and incentives offered by Iraq’s investment law. Highlighting Iraq’s huge economic potential he noted that Iraq’s real growth rate has been more than 7% per annum over the last four years, and is expected to grow even faster over the next decade, with GNP in 2010 standing at $150 billion. Iraq is looking to invest $200 billion over the next six years in the oil and gas sector alone, with a need for new technology and modern management skills. Iraq’s goals “cannot be achieved without international companies” he said. He stressed that the opportunities are not limited to the energy sector, highlighting telecommunications, transport, housing, financial services and tourism as areas offering opportunities.