RT: What about Iraq-GCC relations, they have been quite strained in the past. Is it affecting business?
Samir: Up to now I didn’t notice any effect on that, and our relations with the Gulf and the Emirates are very good and we have no problem even with Kuwait. People can come and go with no problem.
RT: It’s true- relations with Kuwait are vastly improved. What kind of projects do you see yourself working on this year and what projects are you interested in?
Samir: Well, there is an Italian company that has begun work on a proper bridge over the Shatt, to the east side of Basra and across the bridge they are going to construct a new city there, people are going to move there, there will be a good connection. I’m not sure whatever Nasrawi has in mind, but we’ll always participate in it to develop our city.
RT: Is there a preference among local politicians in terms of the national origin of companies?
Samir: Not only governor Nasrawi has preferences, we talk about the general public of Basra, but the local govt. preference is to have a foreign company, and they prefer the US or Europe. Then we know we’ll get a good quality of work which is expected from them.
Then you have to consider the local people, the old relationship between the people of Basra and Britain, because at that time we were occupied by Britain and regarding our habits we learnt a lot from Britain. So when you ask people, they often prefer a British company.
But it has to be competitive. When I had a meeting with small and medium size companies in London, they wanted to come, but they think it is not safe in Basra because of the media. But they get told by Brits who’ve been here and go back to London, “it is safe.” We’ve had a few incidents in 2006,2007, but not anymore. Everybody should convince these British companies come over and help us revive the city.
RT: So the British are welcome in Basra?
Samir: The British are definitely welcome. I’ll give you one example, when a British business associate comes to Basra, he used to come to the airport with a 3 car security convoy. But 2 years ago I picked him up from the airport and now myself or my nephew pick him up. Not just him, but a lot of British business people now. But if you talk to a man in London, people don’t believe you. But people are very welcome, if they want to come.
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