The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) has welcomed a new initiative to boost the Iraqi jobs market.
A weekend conference in Basrah - sponsored by the Ministry of Oil and supported by Shell - has been investigating how to revitalise the Iraqi private sector by ensuring contracts with oil majors went to local firms.
Oil Minister Dr AbdulKarim al-Louaibi [Abdul Kareem Luaibi, Elaibi] said expanding the Iraqi private sector was an absolute priority to lift local companies up to international standards. "This is a new beginning, " he said.
Basrah Governor Dr Khalaf al-Khalaf emphasised the need for the involvement of private companies which would expand economic growth in the region. He noted lack of skilled local manpower and low grade industrial equipment in Basrah which has a population of 3 million, but he said: "These obstacles must be overcome. "
And another conference speaker Baroness Nicholson, Executive Chairman of the Iraq Britain Business Council added:
"Unemployment in Iraq is unacceptably high and it is absolutely vital jobs go to the local private sector. I know our members working in Iraq are fully committed to this principle. This is the first conference of its kind and follow up is essential. "
Chairman of Shell's companies in Iraq, Hans Nijkamp said Shell was totally committed to developing local private industries and described the conference as: "a landmark event."
He went on:
"It is time local companies were involved and we have to find out a way of structuring Iraqi companies into the system. We are very pleased to help the Ministry of Oil who are driving this with us. I hope this conference becomes an annual recurrence. The other international oil companies are going to get involved.
"It is the private sector which builds our oil and gas projects. As an IOC you have a choice. You can bring in a lot of international companies to build the project or you can make the efforts and the choices and do the hard work which is necessary to ensure it is local Iraqis as much a possible. I think we have a responsibility in that respect and I think the other IOC's should think about it in the same way.
"If Shell is not relevant to Iraq we have no reason to be here."
Shell already employs thousands of local people especially in ancillary work like construction. It has also shown a commitment to the local community by building roads, schools and housing and supporting local charities such as the AMAR Foundation.
* Dr Al-Louaibi said Iraq will spend US$130 billion on the country’s upstream sector up to 2017 to help raise production capacity to 9 million barrels a day. He also said the country will allocate $US18 billion to raise natural gas output and US$25 billion to expand refinery capacity. Iraq forecasts US$600 billion in revenue from the oil expansion.
Al-Louaibi added oil exports in February reached 2.54 million barrels a day. Production from Iraq’s Majnoon oilfield will reach 100,000 barrels a day in May 2013 and 200,000 daily by the end of the year, he said.
Delegates also heard Shell plans to spend US $ 1billon developing Al Majnoon.
* Two car bombs rocked Basrah region the day after the conference. One ripped through a bus station at Garmat Ali 11 miles north of Basrah killing at least 10. The other was near South Oil headquarters in Basrah city and injured 2.