Erbil, Iraq and the ISIL Offensive

By Robert Tollast.

The following is an interview with an Iraqi finance professional with a degree in Accounting and Finance. He is also a Chartered Certified Accountant with extensive experience in Banking.

He returned to Iraq in early 2013 and now works as a Portfolio Manager, travelling across Iraq but residing in the Iraqi Kurdistan. He was kind enough to give some of his time to discuss his perspective from Erbil during the June ISIL offensive, focusing on current economic opportunities and challenges in Iraq. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

 RT: What does your organisation do?

We provide loans to existing businesses, from half a million up to three million US dollars, mainly for manufacturing but also for some service companies. I am a portfolio manager; I manage our portfolio of loans.

RT: Regarding your organisation, is there anything in the past couple of years in the Kurdish Region that you’re particularly proud of?

Absolutely. We’ve created hundreds and hundreds of jobs, and we've really helped a lot of companies become a lot more efficient. We've brought in a credit culture and we provide better lending terms than any other bank or institution in Iraq, over a longer period. We do this at a lower interest rate with a smaller amount of collateral requirements. So we have helped a lot of companies take off and grow from humble beginnings, for example from 10 staff into 70-80 employees.

We’ve helped these firms become more efficient. Another thing I’m very proud of is that we financed the first modern corn drying facility in the KRG in addition to water bottling plants, which help locals in terms of hygiene and lowering prices of clean water. We’ve done a lot of good but the most important thing is creating private sector employment. This is something I think is a matter of urgency for the Iraqi economy.

RT: That’s certainly something I have seen as a challenge not just in Arab Iraq but in the KRG too - you have quite a heavy slant to the public sector. The Asiacells and Lafarges are really the minority, and the state rules supreme. But you've been trying to change that.

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