By John Lee.

Iraq has been ranked 172nd out of 190 countries in the World Bank‘s recent Doing Business 2020 report, down from 171st place the previous year.

Top of the list were New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong, with last place going to Somalia, just behind Eritrea and Venezuela. Iran ranked 127th, with Libya 186th.

Doing Business 2020 is the 17th in a series of annual studies investigating the regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it. It provides quantitative indicators covering 12 areas of the business environment in 190 economies.

The goal of the Doing Business series is to provide objective data for use by governments in designing sound business regulatory policies and to encourage research on the important dimensions of the regulatory environment for firms.

More details on the full report here.

65-page profile of Iraq here.

(Source: World Bank)

By Vera Mironova and Mohammed Hussein, for Foreign Policy. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

With ongoing protests making other investors nervous, Moscow is charging ahead.

Despite ongoing protests in Baghdad, which have seen the departure of many foreign diplomats for security concerns, Russia has doubled down.

Not only has its embassy stayed open in the recent weeks of turmoil, but its foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov (pictured), also paid a visit last month, first touring Baghdad and then Erbil.

His tour did not look like a regular diplomatic mission. There were no official agreements signed; politics, Syria, and terrorism seemed like an afterthought; and diplomats were in the minority during the week’s events.

In fact, the majority of the participants were businesspeople, including representatives of such Russian oil and gas companies as Gazprom Neft, Rosneft, Soyuzneftegaz, and Lukoil.

Also in attendance were representatives of Technopromexport, a Russian company that builds energy facilities, and from Russia’s Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation.

Click here to read the full story.

See also:

China, Not Iran, Is the Power to Watch in Iraq

GardaWorld, a global leader in comprehensive security and risk management, has made its weekly security report available to Iraq Business News readers.

Prepared by GardaWorld’s Risk Analysis Team in Iraq, this essential report includes short- and medium-term outlooks on the security situation, reports and commentary on recent significant events, and a detailed overview of developments across the country.

Please click here to download the latest report free of charge.

For more information on how GardaWorld’s services can support your business in Iraq, please contact Daniel Matthews, Senior Director Iraq, at daniel.matthews@garda.com

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.

What’s Really Polluting Southern Iraq’s Most Important Waterway?

For years, fish and other marine life has been disappearing from the all-important Shatt al-Arab waterway in Basra. This wide river at the southern end of Iraq is an important port, linking Iraq with the Persian gulf. It is a vital part of the local environment.

In the more recent past, there have been criticisms that the Shatt al-Arab is too polluted, radioactive and affected with bacterial diseases. Locals often ask why. But it’s not like there is a lack of knowledge about the various causes of this river’s life-threatening problems. A wide number of experts in the area have been studying the different types of pollution problems carefully for years.

Researcher Jabbar Hafez Jebur has conducted a number of studies on whether the Shatt al-Arab is radioactive, taking samples from  various contributing rivers. “The concentration of radioactive elements are within the permitted limits and do not require any action,” he told NIQASH.

The Shatt al-Arab is free of radioactivity, confirms Khajak Vartanian, a physicist with the southern Directorate of the Environment. “But,” he added, “there is growing chemical pollution.”

The concentrations of toxic metals like nickel, chromium, lead, zinc and cadmium can be measured on the water’s surface and in its sediments, says hydrologist Safaa al-Asadi, of the University of Basra’s geography department. There are low  concentrations of toxins spread evenly throughout the waterway.

“Yes, the river is contaminated with toxic minerals but their levels are still within the limits of daily use for irrigation and for aquatic survival,” al-Asadi explained. In fact, much of the pollution comes from the gas emissions in the atmosphere that result from oil extraction activities, he continued, as well as the pollutants issued by diesel generators. These pollutants, discharged into the air, end up in the river after it rains.

Where the various toxins end up depends very much on the tides in the Shatt al-Arab. Their location depends less on the discharge of industrial and domestic sewage, he notes, pointing out that man-made discharges directly into the river have less of an impact than those coming from the sky.

Basra’s Ministry of the Environment regularly monitors the amount of pollution in the waterways at various different points, says Ahmed Jassim Hanoun, director of the department for the protection of the environment at the ministry. Samples are taken regularly and tested, he adds.

Hanoun says his offices are concerned about the direct discharge of pollutants into the Shatt al-Arab and other nearby rivers. But he believes that one of the most important factors is the level of salinity, or salt, in the water.

No bacterial diseases were discovered in the waterways recently and Hanoun says this has a lot to do with the lower levels of salinity. Authorities have tried to ensure that more fresh water is released into the Shatt al-Arab to keep fresh water flowing, and prevent sea water from coming in from the ocean.

“What we noticed after periodic tests throughout 2019 is that the releases of fresh water from the Tigris river, coming from out of Maysan province, has meant that there is more resistance to the salt tongue coming in from the sea,” Hanoun said. The previous year, when there was not as much rainfall upriver, the Shatt al-Arab was a lot saltier and therefore more prone to bacterial growth.

“The department of water resources released 30 to 40 cubic meters [of fresh water] per second in 2018 but in 2019, it released more than 90 cubic meters per second,” Hanoun noted.

Besides the bacterial contamination, saline water from the sea and industrial and environmental pollution, there is another thing that isn’t helping, Hanoun points out: The number of submerged objects in the waterway.

His department has regularly asked the port authority to clear the waterways of the hundreds of objects there, he says.

“We are suffering because of the delay from the government,” says Khaled al-Talibi, a sea captain and head of a local mariners’ association. “The submerged items disrupt navigation in the harbour and change the way the sand and silt moves, which in turn causes a change in currents and reduces the flow of water to the river mouth.”

By Harith Hasan, for Carnegie Middle East Center. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

On November 11, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani received Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the representative in Iraq of the United Nations secretary general.

Sistani welcomed a reform plan proposed by Plasschaert in response to weeks-long protests in Baghdad and southern Iraqi cities, and expressed his concern that “respective parties might not be serious about implementing real reforms.”

If those parties “were incapable or unwilling to make the required reforms,” Sistani continued, then “an alternative path should be considered.”

This was the strongest position conveyed by the cleric since the protests began. It led many Iraqis to wonder what the “alternative path” to which Sistani referred might be.

Click here to read the full story.

(Source: Carnegie Middle East Center)

IBBC hosts largest ever delegation of Iraqi business people at London Business Forum

In a wide-ranging business event over 230 Iraqi business-people and 70 British gathered to meet and discuss Business relations, trade, investment and engagement with the UK’s Business community.

Delegates from all regions of Iraq through the chambers of commerce gathered to hear from representatives of trade associations, IBBC members, chambers of commerce and investors.

Baroness Nicholson, President of IBBC, welcomed the new Iraqi Ambassador, H.E. Mr Mohammad Jaafar Al- Sadr, who gave a keynote address at the conference. The Ambassador speech was followed by an address of H.E Mr Karwan Jamal, High Representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Of note were the panel from Iraqi business people, headed by Dr Dara Jalel Al-Khayat, Chairman of Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Kurdistan, and representatives from Babil, Baghdad and Basra Chambers, as well as the chair of the Importers and exporters association in Kurdistan.

From the British side, a panel consisting of Rod Dowler of the Industry Forum, Alan Rides MD of Hounslow Chamber of Commerce, Brigadier James Ellery of Turnkey LLC and Mr Peter Hunt of HWH Associates and Raed Hanna, MD of MFL Finance, all spoke positively of their experiences in Iraq, but tempered with advice on improvements to the Iraqi experience. Finally, Jessica Hao of Crossboundary associates spoke of opportunities to invest in start-ups and SMEs in Iraq with support of USAID.

Key messages included the enthusiasm with which the Iraqis are keen for British Investment into numerous sectors in Iraq, especially Agriculture, Petro Chemicals, Food Processing, Housing and Consumer goods.

The idea of joint ventures with British know how and expertise and Iraqi partners are also suggested as ways to overcome perceptions of risk in the country. However, many delegates all supported the notion that despite the present legitimate protests in many parts of the country overall peace and stability has returned to Iraq following the defeat of DAESH and that the business environment is getting more favourable. Nevertheless, much needs to be done to free up and boost the private sector, an essential step to meet the demands for real jobs and futures of the ever-increasing young Iraqi population.

Following the formal event, the delegates networked extensively with each other and the British contacts in the room.

The group move onto Northampton University, Ardley high tech waste centre, and High-tech leather innovation centre in Northampton University before returning to Iraq.

For more information on the contacts for exports and import opportunities, please contact London@webuildiraq.org

(Source: IBBC)

Advertising Feature

Rabee Securities Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) market report (week ending: 14th November 2019).

Please click here to download a table of listed companies and their associated ticker codes.

The RSISX index ended the week at IQD646 (+0.2%) / $687 (+0.2%) (weekly change) (-2.0% and -3.2% YTD change, respectively). The number of week traded shares was 11.3 bn and the weekly trading volume was IQD 11.8 bn ($9.7 mn).

ISX Company Announcements

  • Ishtar Hotel (HISH) will hold an AGM on Dec. 4, 2019 to discuss and approve 2017 annual financial statements. The company has been suspended from trading since Aug. 20, 2019 due to not disclosing its 2018 annual financial statements.
  • ISX will suspend trading of Bain Al-Nahrain Investment (VMES) starting Nov. 28, 2019 due to the AGM that will be held on Dec. 3, 2019 to discuss and approve 2018 annual financial statements.
  • Ameen Al-Iraq Islamic Bank / Mouta for Remittance (MTMO) held an AGM on Nov. 13, 2019 to discuss and approve 2018 annual financial statements. The company has been suspended from trading since Jan. 21, 2018 until it receives its operation license by the CBI.
  • ISX suspended trading of Iraqi for Seed Production (AISP) starting Nov. 12, 2019 due to not disclosing its 2019 financial statements.

By Omar Sattar for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News

Is Iran trying to hijack Iraqi protesters’ demands?

In reaction to continuing mass protests that began Oct. 1, the Supreme Judicial Council is reviewing the Iraqi Constitution and will submit proposed amendments to parliament — though protesters fear that will only delay action on their demands.

Parliament has formed an Amendment Committee that is to complete its recommendations within four months, aiming to answer protesters’ demands for reforms to end corruption and the electoral quota system, which is based on religious and ethnic affiliations.

Click here to read the full story.

By Michael Knights, for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

U.S. Interests and the Unsustainable Status Quo in Iraq

The unprecedented protests in Iraq underline the reality that Iraq is slowly failing as a state.

Though life inside the country has improved in some ways, there are still nearly a million new job-seekers each year left unemployed, militias continue to openly humiliate the government, and little is being done to prepare for the day when oil rents can no longer cover the huge bill for the bloated government payroll and social benefits.

Meanwhile, the political parties and bloc leaders that rule Iraq are content to let the country collapse as long as it serves their near-term parochial interests.

Fundamental change is needed: to the nature of party politics, endemic corruption, undue influence by foreign-backed militias, and elections that are at best rigged but are increasingly outright stolen.

In private, almost none of my senior Iraqi political contacts bothers to refute any of the above facts.

Full report here.

(Source: Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Allurentis, UK publishers of The New Iraq series, are now in production of Iraq – Discovering Business 2020.

The publication will be launched at the end of this year and circulated to companies and individuals looking to trade and invest in Iraq throughout 2020.

There are opportunities for organisations from all sectors to promote their services to a global audience through editorial features and advertising.

Iraq Business News is delighted to be partnering Allurentis on this project.

For further details, please contact Laura Curtis, Managing Director of Allurentis at laura.curtis@allurentis.com.