Cheap Imports Mean “Made In Iraq” Is Disappearing

“The way that the market in Basra has been flooded by cheap clothing has led to the closure of around 70 local businesses, including sewing workshops run by local women,” says Sajad Salman, who lobbies on behalf of local businesses. Often goods are sold at higher prices in their countries of origin than they are in Iraq, Salman argues. “So how do these products sell for something like US$2 when there's a border tax and shipping fees?”

There are no laws to protect the domestic market and we are being flooded with cheap imports, agrees Majid Rashak, who heads the Basra Union of Industrialists. “There is no plan to develop industry in Basra, there's no plan to regulate industrial areas here nor are there any plans to help those people who have been made redundant or who have retired from private industry,” Rashak complains. “Nor have there been any commitments by international companies to employ local workers if they are setting up in Basra.”

Rashak confirms that since 2003 about half of all the private plants and workshops in Basra have closed and that thousands of workers have been laid off. Numbers gathered by the Basra Investment Commission, a body tasked with encouraging investment in the province, indicate that almost half of all economically active locals are employed by the government; that is equal to almost a quarter of all individuals living in Basra.

And the same Commission expects the province to become one of the most important economic areas in the whole Middle East – Basra has some of the country's largest oil fields and it's only ports as well as a strong agricultural sector.

However the recent decrease in global oil prices has had a detrimental impact on Iraq's economy, where the budget was predicated on oil remaining at a certain, higher price. This shortfall together with the expensive security crisis means the government is less able to support local industry. Many local analysts believe that the country should be developing sectors other than oil in order to overcome these issues.

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