Revitalizing Ports, Airports in the Shadow of IS

By Shukur Khilkhal for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The war against terrorism and a decrease in oil prices resulted in Iraq running a deficit in its 2015 budget. This has been accompanied by tensions in Iraq and neighboring countries due to military operations against the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL). The current environment has not, however, stopped the Ministry of Transport from moving forward on implementing planned projects.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Transport Minister Baqir Jabr al-Zubeidi (also known as Bayan Jabr Solagh) said that the best way to overcome Iraq's exceptional circumstances is to develop plans that are both realistic as well as sound. While conditions pose significant economic challenges and prohibit certain development projects, Zubeidi asserted that growth should not come to a halt, even amid the toughest challenges.

Rather, exceptional conditions impose different approaches to planning and action. Zubeidi's ministry is continuing to complete major projects in the transportation sector, adopting special mechanisms and strategies to overcome the budget deficit and the unstable security situation.

Al-Monitor:  What are the Ministry of Transport's strategies, and what are its priorities?

Zubeidi:  It is well known that the Ministry of Transport has huge requirements given its large projects. Coincidentally, the country has suffered a budget deficit and exceptional security conditions, which make the situation even more difficult. Practical and realistic plans have facilitated our tasks and allowed us to properly manage the ministry’s agenda. Our priorities are the completion of planned projects and finding other ways and means to overcome the budget deficit.

Al-Monitor:  What do you mean by "other ways and means"?

Zubeidi:  Investments and joint investments. The ministry never hesitated to put its projects out to tender for foreign companies, and this proved to be a great success. But the investment process is not easy. It is a double-edged sword if not properly handled. The Ministry of Transport’s projects are huge and expensive projects, and any mistake in retaining the right company or adopting an inappropriate plan might be disastrous.

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