From Middle East Monitor, under a Creative Commons licence. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Coronavirus to raise poverty rate in Iraq to over 20%, warns minister

Iraq’s poverty rate is expected to rise to more than 20 per cent as a result of the halt in trading following the outbreak of the coronavirus, the country’s planning minister warned yesterday.

Nuri Al-Dulaimi told reporters in Baghdad that poverty in Iraq had amounted to 20 per cent, citing a survey carried out by his ministry in 2018.

“National poverty rate is expected to rise after a number of private sector workers had lost their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak,” he said.

“Poverty in the country’s southern province of Al-Muthanna has reached 52 per cent,” Al-Dulaimi pointed out, calling on private businesses to “stimulate the sector”.

Ninety per cent of Iraq’s economy is dependent on oil sales, according to experts.Coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has led numerous governments around the globe to impose a series of social and economic restrictions, in an effort to contain the virus outbreak, which has frozen the global production and slashed demand for goods and services.

The virus – declared as “pandemic” by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – has so far killed over 251,480 people and infected more than 3,633,833 globally, according to the US’ Worldometer.

(Picture credit: Layth Maydi)

By John Lee.

Mobile phone service Asiacell has reported revenue growth or nearly 2 percent in the first quarter of this year.

In its results for the quarter ended 31 March 2020, the company said:

Asiacell reported revenue growth to QAR 1.09 billion in Q1 2020, up from QAR 1.07 billion in Q1 2019.  The company maintained a healthy EBITDA margin of 44% in Q1 2020, while EBITDA grew to QAR 473 million, marginally up from QAR 471 million reported for the same period last year.  

“Asiacell’s customer base increased by 5% to reach almost 15 million customers at the end of Q1 2020 as the company supported the government’s calls to stay at home by delivering SIMs & scratch cards to customers’ doors through mobile buses. Customers also benefited from extended payment plans during the period to help ease the burden on their personal finances.   

“The company continued to support communities across Iraq by donating to the Iraqi government and to the government of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region to manage the current crisis as well as extending an education campaign across its social media channels and through recorded call announcements encouraging citizens and residents to stay at home.

(Source: Ooredoo)

By John Lee.

Intelyse, a Sicuro Group company, has said it has successfully repatriated over 150 Iraqi citizens to Baghdad in time for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in addition to repatriating more than 80 British and EU citizens from Iraq to UK.

The direct flight to Baghdad departed London Stanstead on 23 April 2020.

The previous day, another Intelyse charter flew from Basra to London Stansted via Zagreb, carrying British and EU citizens who were stranded in Iraq’s oilfields following the closure of all airports and cancellation of all scheduled flights due to coronavirus.

Both flights were arranged in cooperation with Empire Aviation.

Further repatriation flights are to be arranged depending on demand, the company said.

(Source: Sicuro)

Iraq has experienced a massive wave of displacement over the last four years that has caused an intricate housing, land and property situation.

During the recent conflict, many Iraqi citizens have had their property rights violated, such as having lost possession of their property or have had their property damaged or destroyed by different actors.

Approximately 5.8 million Iraqis were forced to abandon their homes and leave their areas of origin as a consequence of fear of violence, lack of freedom of movement, lack of access to basic services. In conflict affected areas, unlawful seizure, sale, systematic looting, and destruction of properties were highly common, and are consequently unable to return to their area of origin, are not able to re-establish their lives, or do not have the financial resources to rebuild their homes.

Enjoying tenure security and access to housing is a human right and humanitarian and governmental actors have a responsibility in ensuring that the rights of people are restored and respected.

PURPOSE OF THE COMPENSATION GUIDELINES

These guidelines have been drafted by HLP Sub-cluster Iraq to advise humanitarian actors who are working on compensation and HLP related issues.

The guidelines set out the scheme as set out in Iraq’s Law 20 of 2009,3 Law 574 of 2015 and Law 2 of 20205 which govern the compensation of all Iraqi citizens affected by damage or destruction of their properties caused by war operations, military errors and terrorist actions in Iraq.

It should be noted that the below guidelines will focus on compensation for housing, land and property only and not any of the other categories eligible for compensation foreseen by above mentioned laws.

Click here to download the full report.

(Source: OCHA)

By Alice Bosley and Patricia Letayf, Co-Founders of Five One Labs. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq’s Startups will Overcome Coronavirus – And Be More Important Than Ever

Over the past months, coronavirus has changed the world as we know it. Almost every person’s family, community, and livelihood has been affected. Societies have had to adapt to social distancing, and economies have suffered the consequences.

After forecasting that the world’s economy would contract by 3% in 2020 – the worst downturn since the Great Depression – the Chief Economist at the IMF noted, “The magnitude and speed of collapse in activity that has followed is unlike anything experienced in our lifetimes.

As is happening across the world, startups in Iraq are suffering from the ripple effects of coronavirus and the country-wide lockdown, which, in Iraq, has included closing all non-essential businesses and restricting movement between and within cities. At the beginning of April, Five One Labs sent out a survey to all of our alumni, startups that have graduated from our full-time startup incubators, and community  to see how they were affected by coronavirus.

Out of the over 40 startups that responded, close to 60% of them were experiencing challenges with financing their businesses and funding delays. Another 60% were not able to sell or deliver their product because of the lockdowns, and around 40% responded that they either could not get the materials to make their products anymore or the demand for their products had suffered due to the lockdown and subsequent economic downturn.

In response to the needs of our entrepreneurs, Five One Labs recently published our “Startup Survival Kit: Rebuilding After Corona.” The guide has resources and tools for managing a startup through crisis, but also has case studies and lessons learned from other startups in Iraq in terms of how they’re adapting to the situation.

As the case studies in the Survival Kit and our recent Facebook Live interviews have shown, there’s no end to the resilience of Iraqi entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are buckling down and doing what needs to be done to survive: 50% have reduced non-staff expenditures, and 10% laid off staff or reduced salaries to make ends meet. Entrepreneurs are reporting that they’re spending more time communicating with their customers, learning new skills, and working on building out their strategy for the future.

With the lockdown also came an increased demand for delivery and app-based services. In Kurdistan, startups like CharaPlus in Sulaimani (a pharmacy-delivery service) or Tdallal in Erbil (grocery delivery) are experiencing a growth in demand. On-demand delivery service Lezzoo added new features, like delivery of water, gas, and groceries from Carrefour in both Sulaimani and Erbil. With even local governments sharing information about grocery delivery services to encourage their use, the lockdown has introduced a larger part of the population to e-commerce. This shift could have a lasting impact on the success of tech startups moving forward.

What we’ve seen in Iraq is that startups here are built to weather crisis and fluctuation. Many startups have approached growth as “camels,” a new term coined to show a potentially smarter approach than the “unicorns” made famous in the Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs in Iraq grow sustainably, ensuring that their costs in general don’t exceed the revenue they’re bringing in. They make sure they have reserves on hand to adapt to the ups and downs of the economy, and they’re innovative in the face of obstacles.

This resilience after crises is more important now than ever. In Iraq, coronavirus comes on the heels of the economic hit caused by the global drop in oil prices along with growing regional instability. The coronavirus response has shown the ability of startups to adapt quickly to local challenges.

Moving forward, there’s a chance for startups to have an outsized impact on Iraq’s economy moving forward as they fill gaps in the market and help the country diversify its economy. So, to all the entrepreneurs out there – time to start rebuilding!

If you are interested in reading our Startup Survival Kit, you can find it here. Five One Labs published the Startup Survival Kit with the support of the German Federal Government through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. We will also be running a series of brainstorms and workshops for startups on how to rebuild after coronavirus. If you’re interested in joining one of the workshops, please email us at info@fiveonelabs.org.

___________

Five One Labs is a start-up incubator that helps refugees and conflict-affected entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses in the Middle East. Launching first in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, we aim to empower individuals to rebuild their lives and livelihoods and to contribute to the economic growth of their communities.

Five One Labs entrepreneurs are provided with training; mentorship by world class entrepreneurs from the USA and the Middle East; and a community of creative changemakers to share their experiences with. 

Our vision is to develop an inclusive network of innovators and entrepreneurs that have the support, skills, and connections to positively change their communities and countries.

UNESCO and ICCROM (The International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) sign an agreement on capacity building for the reconstruction of Mosul’s cultural heritage.

ICCROM, through its Regional Conservation Office in Sharjah (UAE), will provide a two-year capacity building programme for professionals and craftspeople to contribute to the reconstruction of Mosul’s Old City.

This programme is possible thanks to the financial support of the Government of the United Arab Emirates and the European Union and is part of the UNESCO initiative to Revive the Spirit of Mosul.

This ICCROM-UNESCO partnership aims at strengthening the expertise of local young professionals and craftspeople in order to equip them with the required skills for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Old City and, as a result, ensure long-term livelihood opportunities.

The programme targets both young professionals from various disciplines such as architecture, engineering or urban planning, and craftspeople such as masons, carpenters, or stone carvers. Young professionals will be trained on heritage management and conservation, providing them with technical competencies needed to participate in the physical reconstruction of the city.

The programme will also prepare a number of skilled building craftspeople to contribute towards the long-term reconstruction needs of the Old City, taking into consideration the protection, revival and evolution of Mosul’s heritage values.

The capacity building programme will be implemented though a practical on-the-job training modality where trainees will actively participate in the reconstruction of the city’s historic landmarks and houses, and will receive a stipend.

The institutional capacity building scheme falls into the framework of the Revive the spirit of Mosul initiative, UNESCO’s response for the recovery of one of Iraq’s iconic cities. The initiative aims at contributing to community reconciliation and peace building through the recovery of the living environment and rehabilitation of the city’s heritage sites.

The initiative places special emphasis in empowering the population as agents of change involved in the process of rebuilding their city through culture and education. This partnership between UNESCO and ICCROM will reinforce local expertise that can participate in the reconstruction, ensuring both ownership and long-term livelihood opportunities for the people of Iraq.

This ICCROM-UNESCO partnership will specifically support the UAE funded project Reviving the Spirit of Mosul by rebuilding its historic landmarks namely the Al-Nouri Mosque and its Al-Hadba Minaret, as well as the Al-Tahera Church and Al-Saa’a Church and European Union funded project Reviving Mosul and Basra Old Cities.

(Source: UN)

By Dr. Layth Mahdi.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

America and Britain have failed in introducing democracy into Iraq because they handed power to politicians, most of whom do not have the qualification or experience to be in their positions. They are now paying the price for their mistakes.

17 years ago, Iraq was ruled by a dictator who had an agricultural, industrial, health, educational, military, and police system. Today, Iraq is a failed state with diminished local production, also experiencing domestic security and political instability.

Since 2003, all the elected government officials have been unable to address issues concerning mismanagement and corruption. They have failed to prioritize the Iraqi interests and meet the needs of its people. Likewise, the failed parliament has become hated and unwelcome by the Iraqi people because many political parties and blocs are corrupt, competing amongst each other for power. Members of parliament do not have the vision, knowledge and creditability to establish clear political, economic or social programs in rebuilding Iraq.

The popular protests that started in October of last year were a result of continued political failure and mismanagement of the country since 2003. The mass protest movement started with demands to improve social and economic conditions. Following the brutal suppression by the government the protests grew against government corruption, the constitution, control of militias and Iranian interference. As the protests gained momentum, they started to become more organized and unified amongst the provinces. The protest movements are now demanding to dissolve the parliament, form an interim government, and hold early elections with the aim of bringing about a fundamental change in the political system.

The Iraqi government made a mistake in not taking advantage of international experts working in the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and the Iraqi-American Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) signed in 2008 to develop the Iraqi socio-economic programs.

The Iraqi politicians in power since 2003 and until now have not offered anything to future generations, and they are the least responsible for their people. They have destroyed the economy, spreading ignorance and not educating and empowering their people.

Iraq suffers from widespread and persistent corruption across all levels of government and sectors. According to the World Bank’s governance indicators, from 2003 until 2013, Iraq has consistently scored in the bottom 10 percentile for control of corruption, rule of law and political stability which created successive living and economic crises for citizens.  The Transparency International Organization reports that 300 billion dollars has been looted since 2003 and local Iraqi sources state that another 350 billion dollars have been mismanaged and stolen within more than 5000 projects funded between the period of 2003-2014 in the sectors of housing, health, education, roads, bridges, and electricity. The report claims most of these projects were fake and not implemented because of poor planning.

Today, Iraq needs a strong prime minister who is able to make important decisions to meet these challenges. The Prime Minister-designate Mr. Mustafa Al Kadhimi has recently been appointed to form new cabinet. To succeed in his mission, he MUST create a team with strong political and economic credentials to present radical solutions to a transitional program that includes:

  • Restore the security and political stability;
  • Strengthen the integrity of national sovereignty;
  • Implement reform programs to fulfill the demands of the demonstrators and respond to their legitimate aspiration;
  • Development of the economy and international relations.

Since 2003 the GoI has continuously failed its citizens and contributed to the deteriorating economic and security situation. The corruption and lack of security control cannot continue as the population has reached a tipping point. History has proven that the GoI cannot independently rebuild Iraq, they must collaborate with international agencies as they do not process the expertise. If Iraq continues on the same path then we can only expect a continued path towards a failed state.

Debris-recycling initiative seeks to bolster return of displaced in Iraq, amidst growing risks of COVID-19 outbreak

With support from the Government of Japan, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is joining forces with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to launch an innovative debris-recycling project that will help displaced persons in Kirkuk Governorate, northern Iraq, return to their homes.

“With almost 10,000 destroyed houses in Kirkuk Governorate, our priority is to enable [displaced persons] to return and rebuild their demolished homes,” said Ali Humadi, Kirkuk’s Assistant Governor for Technical Affairs.

The plight of the approximately 1.4 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Iraq has taken on a new urgency, as they are widely recognized to be some of the most vulnerable communities to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The impact of the epidemic is exacerbated by the conditions in which the displaced live,” said Dr. Jassim Hamadi, Deputy Health and Environment Minister. “Their cramped living circumstances, both in formal camps and densely populated informal settlements, and difficulty in accessing basic services – especially healthcare – makes them extremely vulnerable to the spread of the virus.”

Emphasizing that “the presence of huge volumes of debris on peoples’ properties is the main obstacle preventing the return of at least 80 per cent of cases”, Ali Humadi welcomed sustainable solutions to the debris problem and the redoubling of efforts to facilitate returns given the ongoing public health emergency.

Kirkuk authorities estimate that from 2014 to 2017, around 8-9 million tonnes of debris were created during the conflict with so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Around two-thirds of this debris consists of concrete, blocks and stones that can be recycled, while the rest is mudbricks. A major challenge in handling this debris stems from the potential presence of unexploded ordnance.

Meanwhile, life is slowly picking-up in some of Kirkuk’s 135 destroyed villages. “It’s a citizen-led effort,” said Ibrahim Khalaf, a prominent community member from Buwaiter, a village that was razed to the ground in June 2015.

Buwaiter is one of many villages along the front lines separating militants from the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in southern Kirkuk from Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the north. This large belt of land, that stretches over 65 kilometres and divides Kirkuk Governorate in half, was until recently a no man’s land emptied of its inhabitants as entire villages were levelled flat.

“People are trying to do what they can to rebuild their homes with their meager resources,” Khalaf said. He further asserted that “that just removing the debris from one house can cost around 2.5 million Iraqi dinars (USD 2,000).” This amount is well beyond the means of many families affected by the conflict, and around half of Buwaiter’s nearly 1,000 inhabitants are unable to return as a result.

IOM Iraq estimates that there are still around 60,000 IDPs in Kirkuk.

“The most important thing now is to clear all this debris, and if possible, help people reconstruct their homes,” Khalaf noted.

“We are at a loss for what to do with all this debris,” said Hassan Nassif, the head of Multaqa sub-district whose 35 villages, including Buwaiter, were wiped out during the conflict. He went on to decry “the chaotic dumping of debris in seasonal wadis and despoiling of agricultural land, which will surely create problems for the future”.

By practically demonstrating the potential for debris recycling through this pilot project, UNEP aims to apply a circular vision to the debris problem, transforming it into part of the solution in partnership with IOM. This includes not only facilitating safe returns, but also generating livelihood opportunities through Cash for Work activities, carrying out more cost-effective reconstruction by reusing crushed rubble, and better environmental management.

The project is being implemented in close collaboration with the Kirkuk authorities and the Ministry of Health and Environment, and benefits from valuable facilitation support from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

“Crushing the rubble is a pragmatic and straightforward answer, offering a ray of hope in dealing with our massive challenges, including creating jobs for displaced youth,” Nassif added. “We stand ready to support this initiative and look forward to expanding this recycling approach in Multaqa and Kirkuk.”

H.E. Hashimoto Naofumi, Ambassador of Japan to Iraq, said: , “Japan has recently decided to provide a new assistance package for Iraq amounting to USD 41 million including this project as assistance for debris recycling in Kirkuk Governorate.
With this package, the total amount of Japan’s assistance to the people affected by the crisis reaches USD 540 million since 2014″.

He went on to say, “Japan is pleased to invest in addressing this overlooked debris problem and support a sustainable return process that integrates the humanitarian, reconstruction and environmental angles of the question.”

As part of this one-year project, which starts this month, UNEP also plans to work closely with Kirkuk Governorate’s recently created Debris Working Group and the Environment Ministry to strengthen their capacity to develop and apply optimal debris management plans.

(Source: UN)

The European Union and UNITAD Sign Agreement to support Digitization of Evidence of ISIL crimes in Iraq

The United Nation Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) and the European Union (EU) have announced the signing of a Contribution Agreement through which the EU will fund a project to support the digitization and archiving of evidentiary materials of ISIL crimes held by Iraqi authorities.

The EU’s contribution of 3.5 million EUR to this project represents the largest extrabudgetary contribution received by UNITAD to date.

Through this project, UNITAD will provide technical assistance and support to national authorities and those in the Kurdistan Region, to establish a comprehensive, indexed inventories of evidence relevant to ISIL crimes committed in Iraq.

This will strengthen the evidentiary basis for UNITAD and Iraqi national authorities in developing comprehensive case-files supporting domestic proceedings brought against ISIL members for crimes that may constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, in line with international standards.

UNITAD is implementing this project with support from the government of Iraq and in consultation with the Iraqi National Coordinating Committee. As an initial step, UNITAD will conduct detailed mapping of existing evidentiary material, before developing a detailed digitization plan.

Special Adviser Karim A. A. Khan QC (pictured), Head of UNITAD, thanked the EU for its generous support and underlined:

“The preservation and organization of evidentiary material in relation to ISIL crimes will serve to deepen the evidential foundations available for ISIL prosecutions. By establishing a comprehensive documentary record of these acts, we also contribute to global efforts to promote peace and security by ensuring that the ideologically bankrupt nature of ISIL is exposed.”

The Special Adviser added that doing all this will help ensure justice and that the gravity of these crimes – and the sacrifices made by Iraqi citizens – are not forgotten. He concluded:

“The victims, survivors – and indeed humanity – deserve no less. Accordingly, I record my gratitude to the EU for its generous contribution and to the Government of Iraq for its support of this project.”

The EU funding for the project will run for 18 months, starting on March 26, 2020.

(Source: EU)