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

Iraq is currently witnessing a huge discrepancy between the performance of the political class and the security, social and economic pressures experienced by the people.

Despite its apparent failure in dealing with the security, economic and social issues that have placed Iraq at the top of the list of “failed states,” the political class decided to reward itself with unprecedented privileges, expressing extreme indifference toward the voters.

During the past few years, the legislative, executive and independent institutions issued decrees that granted their members very high salaries and huge additional privileges. Lawmakers earn an estimated $22,500 each month in salary and allowances for housing and security. In contrast, a mid-level government employee makes around $600 a month.

While these extensive privileges were supposed to serve as motivation for the lawmakers to work harder, failure continues to plague the Iraqi parliament, which seems unable to hold frequent meetings because of the chronic absence of more than half of its members.

The fact is that Iraq is a rentier country where the political elite oversees the distribution of oil revenues in a way that serves its interests. An equitable relationship between taxation and representation does not exist in rentier states, where the ruling elite practically turn into owners that distribute the wealth as it sees fit, while the people become dependent on donations from the rulers.

Such a relationship had explicitly existed under the regime of former President Saddam Hussein. The official media outlets of the time used to label any financial or material grant given by the government to the citizens as a “gift from the leadership.”

Such rhetoric no longer exists today, but the investment of the easy money from oil proceeds still serves the goals of political forces. The political conflict is basically about each group seeking to control a greater share of the oil revenues.

By Ibrahim al-Jibouri.

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Karbala’s famous old city is home to two of Islam’s most important shrines and attracts millions of tourists. It is also surrounded by high walls and under tight security. But that security is now driving local businesses out and causing residents to leave.

For more than seven years most vehicles have been prevented from entering the old city in Karbala. This is mainly because the old city contains several extremely important sites for Shiite Muslims, including the tomb of the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, which some devotees believe might be one of the gates to heaven.

However because of the heavy security restrictions on Karbala’s old city, which is surrounded by security barriers, getting in there is almost as difficult as getting into paradise. And it seems that the restrictions are killing off regular life in the old city.

Anyone who is not a resident in the area and who wishes to drive into the old city with a car or motorbike needs a special permit. The process involved in obtaining such a permit takes a very long, applicants complain. Additionally a spokesperson for the Karbala police say that those who want to enter the old city with their vehicles again, must obtain special permits every single time they want to drive in.

It was also possible to apply for a special badge if they wanted to keep driving in regularly. But again, these took months to access. Anyone who leaves the city and who doesn’t have a badge like this will find it very difficult to get back in.

This was not only to prevent terrorist attacks, Ahmed al-Hasnawi, a spokesman for the Karbala police, admitted, but to stop too much traffic from getting into the old city which was already crowded with all the tourists coming here.

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

She set her small body on fire after pouring several liters of kerosene over herself and lighting a match. This is how she ended her life after her father refused to allow her to marry her lover and insisted she marry someone she did not know.

Shahnaz, who was not yet 25 years old, died at a burn center in Nineveh in April 2010 after physicians failed to save her from the injuries that disfigured her entire body. She is now another number on the long list of tragic victims of forced marriages.

Kalnaz, Shahnaz’s younger sister, described the incident to Al-Monitor: “It was an ominous day, [but] we did not expect her to carry out this disastrous act.” She added, “Fire devoured my sister’s body while she screamed out against at all those who were unjust to her.”

The decision made by Layla, 27, was different. She acquiesced to a marriage that she was forced into by her family, to live a life that she described as a “silent death,” rather than a “scandalous death,” after her family refused to allow her to marry her university classmate.

Layla wiped away her tears as she said, “It’s possible that my father and brothers could have killed me to remove the stain on their honor, had they suspected that I was refusing to marry one of my cousins because of a relationship with my classmate, who they had not allowed me to marry.” She added, “I had no other option.”

The problem of forced marriage is not limited to Layla and Shahnaz. Thousands of women in all parts of Iraq share the same problem in the patriarchal and tribal society. The freedom of women, in general, is limited and their love lives, if discovered by the family, can create a pretext for her murder.

The 8th September of every year marks a special occasion with the world celebrating International Literacy Day. In 2013, this occasion takes an even deeper significance as this year’s celebrations highlight a neglected, yet major aspect: placing education at the heart of development.

Under this year’s theme, Literacies for the 21st Century, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in cooperation with the Government of Iraq, is holding two main events in Baghdad and Erbil to highlight the main achievements accomplished in the past years, and discuss future steps to be taken to ensure that literacy is invested as a tool to generate social and economic development.

To be attended by all stakeholders active in the field of literacy, including representatives from the Ministries of Education in Baghdad and Erbil, international organizations, Iraqi civil society organizations and NGOs, the events will feature the handover of 118 Community Learning Centres established with the support of UNESCO to the Government of Iraq, for them to be fully operated by the Ministries of Education.

These 118 centres have served successfully as models for what can be achieved through community participation and by bringing different stakeholders together to address an important educational challenge. Thanks to their wide distribution and focus on marginalized and vulnerable communities, the CLCs have effectively facilitated UNESCO’s literacy interventions and delivering, in addition to life skills training, that allows for faster inclusion of illiterates into economic activities.

“Following the approval of the new Literacy Law in September 2011, the establishment of the National Literacy Agency for Iraq, and the endorsement by the Ministry of Education of the National Literacy Strategy that was prepared with the support of UNESCO, this step is seen as another milestone in the successful cooperation between UNESCO, the Iraqi Central government, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the civil society organizations in the field of literacy”, said UNESCO Iraq Office director Louise Haxthausen about the handover of the CLCs. Ms. Haxthausen also reassured UNESCO’s commitment to support the Government of Iraq in reaching other marginalized populations’ literacy needs, particularly refugees and internally displaced persons whose numbers are on the rise.

By John Lee.

Businessweek reports that Iraq plans to award contracts at the Zubair oil field the the Korean companies Samsung Engineering, Hyundai Heavy Industries, and Daewoo Engineering & Construction.

Oil minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi [Elaibi] (pictured) has told reporters:

We are in the last stages in attributing the project entirely to three Korean companies … This matter will be completed in less than two weeks.

The Zubair project will cost more than $3 billion, he said, without indicating whether it was the sum that the three companies would get, or how much each would receive.

Italy’s Eni is the lead partner on the 4.1 billion barrel field with a 32.81 percent stake; Iraq’s Missan Oil Company holds 25 percent, Occidental Petroleum Corp 23.44 percent, and South Korea’s KOGAS 18.75 percent.

In July, Eni signed a deal revising its contract, and setting a new target for the field of 850,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) through 2035. The original 20-year deal signed in 2010 called for 1.2 million bpd.

(Source: Businessweek)

By John Lee.

The Bangladeshi Minister for Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, has told Dhaka Tribune that the Iraqi Ministry of Health said it wants to recruit 100 anaesthetists.

Recruitment will be done under an arrangement with private recruiting agencies, which the minister said would not charge high fees to the candidates as the jobs are at professional level.

A technical team headed by the Iraqi Deputy Minister for Health is scheduled to arrive in Bangladesh on Monday to interview the applicants.

The Bangladeshi government has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to send 1,000 workers to Iraq.

(Source: Dhaka Tribune)

By John Lee.

The Bangladeshi Minister for Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, has told Dhaka Tribune that the Iraqi Ministry of Health said it wants to recruit 100 anaesthetists.

Recruitment will be done under an arrangement with private recruiting agencies, which the minister said would not charge high fees to the candidates as the jobs are at professional level.

A technical team headed by the Iraqi Deputy Minister for Health is scheduled to arrive in Bangladesh on Monday to interview the applicants.

The Bangladeshi government has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to send 1,000 workers to Iraq.

(Source: Dhaka Tribune)

By John Lee.

Premier Nouri al-Maliki received the Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmerman this week and called for Dutch companies to enter the Iraqi markets, pointing that Iraq has an agreement with the European Union.

Minister Timmerman said his country is looking for opportunities either in work or investments, and said his country wants to work in Iraq in all sectors.

The situation in the region was discussed, and Premier Maliki condemned the use of chemical weapons by any side, saying he regarded it as a crime against humanity, and calling for dialogue rather than the use of military force.

The question of Iraqis living in Holland was also discussed, but no details were given.

(Sources: Aswat Al Iraq, Prime Minister’s Office)

The United States Kurdistan Business Council (USKBC) this week heard about the latest political and economic developments in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq from a Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) ministerial-level delegation.

Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, and Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG’s High Representative to the United Kingdom, briefed USKBC companies about events in Kurdistan, Iraq and the broader Middle East.

Mr. Bakir provided an overview of the economic progress in the Kurdistan Region which is an investor-friendly emerging market that can also act as a launching pad for American companies to work in other parts of Iraq. He called on USKBC member companies to assist in building the capacity of Kurdistan’s private sector and its trade associations.

Minister Bakir answered questions about the Kurdistan market, the ongoing KRG dialogue with the Iraqi federal government, relations with Turkey and the desperate situation facing the 220,000 Syrian refugees that have fled to the Kurdistan Region.

“We thank USKBC members for believing in the Kurdistan Region, which is open and friendly to American businesses,” said Minister Bakir. “Our meeting with the business council is part of a visit to Washington in which we are discussing with our American friends a variety of issues of mutual interest, including commercial, educational and cultural relations.”

USKBC board members expressed support for the KRG and its open dialogue with the U.S. government. “The USKBC is a strong supporter of Kurdistan’s development and its member companies have invested in the region. We continue to call on the broader U.S. business community to discover Kurdistan as an emerging market as we have already,” said Pete Dordal, Senior Vice President at Garda World, a founding corporate USKBC board member.

(Source: KRG)

The United States Kurdistan Business Council (USKBC) this week heard about the latest political and economic developments in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq from a Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) ministerial-level delegation.

Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, and Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG’s High Representative to the United Kingdom, briefed USKBC companies about events in Kurdistan, Iraq and the broader Middle East.

Mr. Bakir provided an overview of the economic progress in the Kurdistan Region which is an investor-friendly emerging market that can also act as a launching pad for American companies to work in other parts of Iraq. He called on USKBC member companies to assist in building the capacity of Kurdistan’s private sector and its trade associations.

Minister Bakir answered questions about the Kurdistan market, the ongoing KRG dialogue with the Iraqi federal government, relations with Turkey and the desperate situation facing the 220,000 Syrian refugees that have fled to the Kurdistan Region.

“We thank USKBC members for believing in the Kurdistan Region, which is open and friendly to American businesses,” said Minister Bakir. “Our meeting with the business council is part of a visit to Washington in which we are discussing with our American friends a variety of issues of mutual interest, including commercial, educational and cultural relations.”

USKBC board members expressed support for the KRG and its open dialogue with the U.S. government. “The USKBC is a strong supporter of Kurdistan’s development and its member companies have invested in the region. We continue to call on the broader U.S. business community to discover Kurdistan as an emerging market as we have already,” said Pete Dordal, Senior Vice President at Garda World, a founding corporate USKBC board member.

(Source: KRG)