By Dr Amer K. Hirmis.

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

Public sector investment in Iraq – What strategic priorities for the new Prime Minister?

Iraq is still in turmoil, four months since the Uprising, in October 2019. Meanwhile, Prime Minister (PM) Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned. Muhammad Tawfiq Allawi i has been appointed as PM-designate.

Mr. Allawi has already been rejected by the Uprising, as an affiliate to the failed post-2003 ethno-sectarian political system. Political uncertainty thus continues, and with it investment decisions in the public and private sectors.

Whoever the new PM may end up to be, two key challenges will face him; political and economic.

On the political front, the new PM will need to prove, by action, that he has the will and determination to serve the Iraqi people, rather than bend to ethno-sectarian interests that have shaped politics and the economy post-2003. A system that normalised pervasive corruption, sidelined the rule of law, freedom of thought and expression, peaceful gathering and the right to protest. A system that, inter alia, stalled economic development, leading to high unemployment, and marginalised, if not atomised, millions of Iraqis living in poverty.

On the economic front, the challenges are just as great as the political ones. The new PM will have only the near-term to rise to these challenges – possibly a major review of the current ‘Government Programme,’ the ‘Construction Council’ bill, and various economic “road maps” laid out by the current ‘Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee’ (PMAC), e.g. “vision 2030”, as well as comprehensive institutional reforms. He will need to draw together all these, and more, and produce a short-term realistic, rational and workable economic programme, on which more below.

Simply put, the Uprising anticipates economic reforms that create new jobs, use oil revenues for investment in productive sectors of the economy, across the country and substantially reduces the size of government employment, of which the pay roll easily absorbs over 50 percent of the national budget.

The Uprising also demands early general elections, ushering a process of defragmentation of the allegedly corrupt institutions, and observing good governance and the rule of law, amongst other reforms.

Please click here to download Dr Hirmis’ full report in pdf format.

Dr Amer K. Hirmis is Principal at UK-based consultancy CBS Ltd. (2008-present). In October 2009, Amer began a 20-months assignment as Senior Development Planning Advisor to the Ministry of Planning in Iraq (funded under the DANIDA programme for ‘peace and reconstruction’ in Iraq). The posts Amer has assumed include Chief Economist and Head of Policy at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (1992-5), Economic Advisor to UK South West Regional Development Agency (1996-8) and Associate Director and then Head of Consulting and Research (Middle East) at the global firm DTZ (1998 to 2007).

Dr Amer K Hirmis is the author of ‘The Economics of Iraq – ancient past to distant future’

[https://www.amazon.com/Economics-Iraq-Ancient-distant-future/dp/1999824105]

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraqi Kurdistan:

(Source: UN)

KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani chaired a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to discuss the implementation of the KRG’s ambitious Reform Law.

The meeting of cabinet ministers was attended by the heads of the Financial Monitoring Diwan and Commission of Integrity in Kurdistan, as well as the President of Public Prosecutions.

Prime Minister Barzani emphasised the significance of the KRG’s modernisation efforts, which will enhance the efficiency of all government sectors and streamline the delivery of services to the public. He called on all parties to support the reform agenda.

A high-level committee was established to oversee implementation, and the Prime Minister requested that ministers submit recommendations on the prompt and effective enacting of the Reform Law within 15 days.

The Prime Minister also highlighted the role of financial monitoring authorities, the Commission of Integrity, and Public Prosecutions in supervising the reform process.

During the meeting, it was agreed that the cabinet, as part of its core responsibilities, will consider the restructuring the Kurdistan Region’s revenues and expenditures to bring greater transparency to the oil and gas sectors.

(Source: KRG)

Genel Energy has announced the appointment of David McManus as Chairman with immediate effect.

Sir Michael Fallon (pictured) has been appointed as senior independent Non-Executive Director, and Tolga Bilgin and Hassan Gozal have also been appointed to the Board as Non-Executive Directors.

David McManus has more than 40 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, having held various executive roles at Pioneer Natural Resources, BG Group, ARCO, Ultramar, and Shell. He is currently serving as a Non-Executive Director at Hess Corporation, a large, integrated US oil and gas company; FlexLNG, a Norwegian listed LNG shipping company; and Costain Group PLC, one of the UK’s leading smart infrastructure solutions companies. Previous directorships include Rockhopper Exploration plc and Northern Drilling Limited.

Sir Michael Fallon has 30 years of senior political and business experience, serving in four British Cabinets, and as Non-Executive Director on City and commercial boards. He was MP for Sevenoaks from 1997 to 2019, serving as Energy Minister responsible for the oil and gas sector from 2013 to 2014 and as Secretary of State for Defence from 2014 to 2017.

Sir Michael will act as Senior Independent Director, Deputy Chairman and Chairman of the International Relations Committee. George Rose is remaining at Genel as an independent Non-Executive Director and Chairman of the Audit Committee.

Tolga Bilgin has been CEO of Bilgin Energy Holding, and its subsidiaries, since 2014. Bilgin Energy Holding is a pioneer and a leading Turkish energy firm, that owns, operates and sells electricity from wind, natural gas, and hydroelectric projects, and is a major shareholder of Genel.

Hassan Gozal is Chairman of Daax Corporation, a Dubai based company with investments in a wide range of sectors, notably energy and oil, oil and gas trading, construction, and property development with significant Middle Eastern experience, including the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Daax Corporation is a major shareholder of Genel.

As a temporary result of these appointments, the majority of the Board (excluding the Chairman) is not independent. It is the intention of the Board to appoint one further independent Director to return to an equal balance of independent versus non-independent Directors as soon as reasonably practicable.

George Rose, Non-Executive Director of Genel, said:

“I am delighted to welcome David to the Board. He has vast experience which will help guide the Company through the next phase in our development, as we build our operating capability and seek material growth. The appointments today bring significant industry and international expertise, with experience of operating, investing, and delivering major projects in the region.”

David McManus, Chairman of Genel, said:

“Genel has built a portfolio with a compelling mix of cash-generation and funded growth options. I look forward to working with the Board as the Company continues to deliver on its strategy, enters an exciting new chapter, and strives to take advantage of the significant opportunities ahead.”

(Source: Genel Energy)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBCC) held its Council Meeting, Dinner & Reception for IBBC Members and distinguished guests on 28 January. The Council Meeting, hosted by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, President of IBBC and the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan took place in the House of Lords.

Ms Jwan Khioka, Minister Plenipotentiary from the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq greets IBBC Members and distinguished guests

The Council Meeting was followed by a Reception & Dinner hosted by Brigadier James Ellery CBE at the Cavalry & Guards Club, where Ms Jwan Khioka, Minister Plenipotentiary from the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq greeted more than 40 guests.

After dinner, Dr Heike Harmgart, Managing Director for the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) elaborated EBRD’s strategy and business plan for the SEMED region, especially highlighting the business opportunities in the Republic of Iraq.

Dr Heike Harmgart, Managing Director for the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), after dinner speaker

The Education, Training and Heritage Sector Table Meeting hosted by IBBC in its London offices on 28th January was attended by representatives from the UK Embassy of the Republic of Iraq, Bath Spa University, the University of Northampton, Stirling Education, UB Holdings, Unihouse Global, the British Council and the IBBC.

The meeting agreed its over-riding objective is to improve education across Iraq, build in-country capacity and facilitate cooperation between Iraq and international, especially UK, universities. The BC confirmed it is continuing to function in Iraq, albeit at a lower activity level with some restrictions to personnel movement. The proposal for senior representatives of UK universities to visit Iraq was well supported, subject to acceptable security, all parties agreed that involvement of relevant ministries in Iraq is essential to  A number of initiatives to encourage Iraq’ entrepreneurs in were presented, including establishing a Tech Hub in Baghdad, run seminars to assist students aiming to study outside Iraq and setting up an alumni network for Iraqi graduates who has studied in UK. It was agreed that the Chevening Programme had been successful and should continue.

A highlight of the meeting was the detailed presentation of Dr Amir Saadati, Strategic Advisor, City & Guilds MENA (Projects) (https://www.cityandguilds.com/) who gave a detailed presentation on the organisations plan to roll out a number of essential training programmes across Iraq in conjunction with IBBC Member Stirling Education.

IBBC Education, Training and Heritage Sector Table Meeting

The Construction and Infrastructure Sector Table met earlier in the day with Jones Lindgren of Perkins and Will in the chair. The main discussion was about current work and opportunities in the water and environment sectors with Brad Moxham of Pell Frischmann and Steve Rowan of Eame, both active in Iraq, leading the discussion.

The IBBC Executive Committee met in the morning of 29th January. The Committee of IBBC Members, reviews IBBCs activities and advises the management of its future planning. After many years of service Alistair Kett of PWC, Hadi Nezir of UB Holding, Hani Akkawi of CCC retired from the committee. The new committee members are John Curtin of EY, Charles Walker of ZHA, Charlie Burbridge of G4S and Sadar Al-Bebany of Sadar Trading Agencies.

IBBC Executive Committee meeting

The Oil & Gas Sector Table Meeting was hosted by IBBC in its London offices On 29th January was attended by representatives from BP, ExxonMobil, SKA, Constellis, Gulftek, Petrofac, Basrah Engineering Group, the UK FCO and the IBBC. There was wide ranging discussion on the current situation in Iraq and its adverse impact on investment in the country, in particular in the oil and gas sector. There was general agreement that more investment is required to maintain current levels of production, and additional investment will be required to increase production and monetise the extensive associated gas reserves currently being flared.

Oil & Gas Sector Table Meeting

Iraqi president says will pick new PM if deadlock drags on

Iraqi President Barham Salih (pictured) said on Wednesday that he would choose an interim prime minister if political parties failed to name a replacement for Adel Abdul Mahdi by 1st February

Reuters reports that the deadline set by President Salih is the latest sign that the Shi’ite political parties who dominate Iraq’s parliament have failed so far to bridge their differences and select a new prime minister who is acceptable to the protesters.

Salih called on the rival political blocs to resume talks and agree a nominee.

If no name was presented to him by 1st February, Salih said in a statement he saw it as essential that he “carry out my constitutional prerogatives and designate whom I find more acceptable to the public and parliament”.

Two political blocs – Bina, backed by Iran, and Islah, led by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr – are closely involved in backroom discussions to agree on a candidate.

The protesters have been demanding not only a new electoral law and committee, but also the removal of the entire political class and appointment of a prime minister with no party affiliation.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

Kirkuk: Youth come together to discuss issues of reconciliation and stability

Twenty-four young women and men, representing the youth of Kirkuk Governorate, recently met in Kirkuk city to discuss what the youth see as key issues in the context of their Governorate.

In the presence of the Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Kirkuk Office, Ms. Laura Romanazzi, the Acting Governor of Kirkuk, Mr. Rakan Al-Jubouri, several local officials, politicians and UNAMI representatives from the Office of Political Affairs, the energetic and inspiring youth delegates discussed issues pertaining to unemployment, youth participation in decision making and supporting youth projects, the current security situation in the country, provision of basic services including the right to education, combatting corruption and the role of oversight institutions.

In her address to the workshop, Ms. Laura Romanazzi said that Kirkuk was “a Governorate which showcases all of the complexity, diversity, potential, conflict and promise of Iraq”. Therefore, “inclusive and honest discussions must take place between communities to address past legacies”. This, she added, “cannot be done without the political, social and economic participation of young people – and your involvement in reconciliation efforts to bridge differences and address grievances”.

The youth workshop held from 13-15 December 2019 was organised by UNAMI, in cooperation with the Coexistence and Social Peace Committee under the auspices of the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Iraqi Al-Amal Association. The activity is in line with UNAMI’s mandate to support youth and their valuable contributions to the country.

(Source: UN)

Iraq has paid back more than $20 billion in foreign debt, the head of the parliamentary finance committee Haitham Al-Jubouri has said.

“Iraq’s foreign debt amounted to more than $50 billion. More than $20 billion was paid back over the last period,” Al-Jubouri told the Iraqi news agency.

According to the official, Iraq still owes $27 billion to foreign countries, in addition to $41 billion to Saudi Arabia given as a grant to the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

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

The U.S. State Department sent Congress this month detailed plans to dramatically and permanently reduce the number of U.S. diplomats in Iraq, a measure that critics say runs directly against the Trump administration’s stated goals of countering Iranian influence in the country and undercuts Washington’s efforts to stabilize the Iraqi government.

Documents sent from the State Department to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and obtained by Foreign Policy shed new light on the department’s decision earlier this year to draw down the number of diplomats and other U.S. personnel in Iraq.

Click here to read the full story.

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

The U.S. State Department sent Congress this month detailed plans to dramatically and permanently reduce the number of U.S. diplomats in Iraq, a measure that critics say runs directly against the Trump administration’s stated goals of countering Iranian influence in the country and undercuts Washington’s efforts to stabilize the Iraqi government.

Documents sent from the State Department to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and obtained by Foreign Policy shed new light on the department’s decision earlier this year to draw down the number of diplomats and other U.S. personnel in Iraq.

Click here to read the full story.