KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani chaired a meeting of the cabinet on Wednesday to discuss implementing best practice for the taxation system of the Kurdistan Region.

The ministers reviewed an internal pilot project tasked with developing a new legal and auditing framework. The framework updates current auditing practices and increases the transparency of the taxation system.

Prime Minister Barzani emphasised his cabinet’s commitment to an ambitious reform agenda, notably tax revenue reform in the Kurdistan Region, which will ensure fair implementation of the system and provide the government with the enhanced enforcement tools.

The cabinet also approved a project designed to improve monitoring and auditing of government and private sector budgets, the facilitation of which will be supported by the Ministry of Finance and Economy.

During the cabinet meeting, the KRG also approved the merging of the High Institute for Audits and Accounting with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, bolstering their research capabilities and raising scientific standards.

Prime Minister Barzani called for everyone to work together to ensure that public property and government vehicles are used in the best interest of the public and in accordance with government rules and regulations.

(Source: KRG)

By John Lee.

The Palestinian Authority has reportedly filed a formal request to Israel to allow the import of fuel from Iraq.

Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammed Shtayyeh, told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that although the request was made four months ago, Israel has yet to respond.

He said:

“Fuel is our biggest expense … The cheaper fuel from Iraq will reduce the pressure on our budget considerably.”

More here.

(Source: Haaretz)

As a part of his meetings with a number of leaders and heads of State, President Salih held in-depth talks with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

The President stressed the need to intensify international efforts to establish international and regional security and stability, noting that their consolidation and strengthening is the only way to ensure comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.

His Excellency added that Iraq is eager to establish balanced relationships with all friends and allies to strengthen its sovereignty, respect its independent decision, achieve the interests of Iraqis, continue the economic development and reconstruction. In addition to Iraq must not be turned into a battleground to settle scores, he stated.

The US President, in turn, reiterated his country’s support for Iraq, showed his desire to have a closer relation, expand the scope of cooperation and raise the trade volume between Iraq and US to serve both peoples. Iraq’s pivotal role in the region, he appreciated.

Discussions covered the presence of foreign forces, the reduction in troops strength in the country as well as the importance of respecting Iraqis people’s demands in maintaining national sovereignty and ensuring security and stability.

(Source: Office of the Iraqi President)

By John Lee.

Aviation services group Air Partner has said that it has received increased interest in its “emergency planning” services as a result of recent events in Iraq and Iran.

In a trading update for the year ending 31 January 2020, the company reported:

Heightened tensions in the Middle East have resulted in increased interest in our Emergency Planning product.

“We received several enquiries for Evacuations during and immediately post the events in Iran/Iraq at the beginning of 2020 and we continue to monitor the situation in the region.

(Source: Air Partner)

Gulf Keystone Petroleum (GKP) has issued an operational and corporate update in advance of the Company’s full year 2019 results which are scheduled to be released on 26 March 2020.

Operational

  • Average gross production for 2019 of 32,883 barrels of oil per day (“bopd”), meeting original 2019 gross production guidance.
  • Current production rates from the field at c.40,000 bopd.
  • The side-track to the SH-9 well, designed to assess the gas reinjection potential of the Jurassic formation, reached total depth on 27 December 2019.
  • The SH-9 well is currently being tested. GKP and its partner MOL will then review plans for gas management, in consultation with the Ministry of Natural Resources.
  • In order to optimise the cost and production benefits from the drilling campaign, the sequence of wells will now be SH-L then SH-I, both of which will be drilled from the same pad and will produce into PF-2, which has available processing capacity.
  • The rig is currently being mobilised to drill the SH-L production well.
  • Full oil export from Shaikan via pipeline following commissioning of the PF-1 export line on 10 December 2019.
  • Safety remains a core focus. However, following over 530 Lost Time Incident (“LTI”) free days, an LTI occurred in December as a result of a road traffic accident.

Corporate

  • Cash balance of $192 million as at 20 January 2020.
  • The Company returned value to shareholders by paying dividends of $50 million in 2019 and to date repurchasing c.$35 million of shares out of $50 million in aggregate of share buyback programmes previously announced (with the Company today separately announcing its intention to complete the final $10 million tranche of such programmes).
  • Ian Weatherdon joined the Company on 13 January as Chief Financial Officer and Executive Board member.

Outlook

  • With the continued development of the Shaikan Field, the Company expects to increase average production in 2020 by more than 30% year-on-year to 43,000-48,000 bopd.
  • Debottlenecking and facility upgrades remain on schedule.
  • On track to reach the 55,000 bopd gross production target at Shaikan in Q3 2020.

Jon Ferrier, CEO, commented:

2019 saw GKP continue to realise the benefits of the Company’s recent turn around. In a year in which we returned significant value to shareholders, through both our maiden dividend and share buyback programmes, we also benefited from the increased operational tempo. This resulted in the first steps along the road to a significant production increase from Shaikan, and we are pleased to confirm today that we achieved our original 2019 gross production guidance.

“Looking forward, the pace of the development of Shaikan continues with the drilling and investment in our facilities, in order to deliver our growth trajectory. With a robust balance sheet and confidence in regular payments, we expect to be fully funded for our work programme and continue to return value to shareholders.

(Source: GKP)

By John Lee.

The head of Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) has reportedly said that the bank would stop processing payments for Iranian gas imports if a US sanctions exemption expires next month.

Faisal al-Haimus told AFP:

“As a bank, the most important thing we have is that we are compliant (with international regulations). That’s why people trust us.”

Iraq relies heavily on Iran to support its struggling electricity sector.

When the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s energy sector in 2018, it granted Iraq a series of temporary waivers to allow it to buy gas from Iran.

More here.

(Source: AFP)

On Tuesday, the NATO Assistant Secretary General for Operations Dr. John Manza and his delegation met with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Iraq Mr. Abdul Karim Hashim Aboualgus and his team.

The Deputy Minister and Dr. Manza discussed the current state of the NATO Mission in Iraq and cooperation between the Republic of Iraq and NATO.

They agreed that strong cooperation between the Republic of Iraq and NATO is of mutual benefit. NATO remains committed to our training mission in Iraq, which contributes to the fight against terrorism.

(Source: NATO)

By John Lee.

BP has reportedly finished its work at Iraq’s giant Kirkuk oilfield.

According to Reuters, sources confirmed that the decision followed the expiration of its $100-million exploration contract at the end of December, at which point there was no agreement on the field’s expansion.

It quotes a source at BP as saying:

“In 2013, BP signed a letter of intent (LOI) with the North Oil Company of the Iraq Ministry of Oil to support field activity studies in Kirkuk. As planned, in December 2019 BP completed field work, studies and recommendations.”

Another source said that the results of the study were “below expectations” and “not encouraging for BP to extend its operations.

Full report here.

(Source: Reuters)