Speech by KRG Minister Herish Muharam, Chairman of the Kurdistan Investment Board, to “Iraq – Untapped Opportunities” Conference in London.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’m very pleased to participate in this important conference on the untapped opportunities in Iraq. As the Chairman of the Kurdistan Board of Investment, it’s my pleasure to be speaking to you, the British business community and members of the Middle East Association, which has championed trade with the Kurdistan Region and the rest of Iraq since 2006.
Despite a slow start, British companies have been catching up in the past year. Now Britain has the third highest number of firms registered with the KRGMinistry of Trade and Industry, only behind Turkey and Iran. As of June this year, 68 British companies hadregistered. And I was very happy to see that the UK had one of the largest pavilions at the Erbil International Trade Fair this year.
Kurdistan’s Investment Board is in charge of all direct investments except those in the oil and gas sector. So while there are massive opportunities in oil and gas, I will focus on opportunities in other sectors.
I’m proud to report that in Kurdistan we are succeeding in our efforts to attract direct investment, mainlynational and some foreign. Since the Kurdistan Investment Law was passed in 2006, our Region has attracted nearly 16 billion dollars of investment, of which 14 percent was by foreign investors, and 4 percent was through joint ventures. Foreign investment has come mainly from Lebanon and Turkey. But we need to do more to attract investment from Britain and other Western countries. It is entirely understandable that Western companies are wary of newly emerging markets, especially post-conflict regions. But there is a danger that British, American and European firms and investors will continue to miss out.
We are ambitious, we aspire to great things. But we are also realistic and aware of our shortcomings and challenges, such as corruption, red tape and inefficiency. We are taking concrete steps to tackle corruption, for example through the PriceWaterhouse Coopers transparency initiative. To increase the efficiency of ourInvestment Board, we are delegating more of our operations to the provincial level, so that we can focus on our vision, and on the strategies that we need to achieve our vision.