By John Lee.

Two Baghdad-based companies have won contracts in Ramadi (pictured) with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS):

  1. Albir Company for General Contracts Ltd has won a contract worth $322,000 for the replacement and installation of storm water pumps and related accessories in Al Ramadi;
  2. Al Raneen Contracting Ltd has won a contract worth $810,470 for the replacement and installation of potable water pumps and related accessories in Al Ramadi.

(Source: UNGM)

Summary of government measures to boost employment, address housing shortage and support low-income groups

Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi on Sunday chaired a meeting of the High Committee for the Distribution of Land.

The Committee reviewed preparations for the distribution of plots of land to low-income groups in Iraqi provinces, and the allocation of more land to build low-cost housing to families in need.

The meeting comes as the Iraqi government continues to implement a series of measures to meet the legitimate demands of recent protests and address the aspirations of the Iraqi people.

The measures include the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the attacks on protesters and the security forces during recent demonstrations, identify those responsible and bring them to justice.

The commission of inquiry comprises senior ministers, representatives of the security forces, the judiciary, the Human Rights Commission and Members of Parliament.

Key measures announced by the Iraqi government

The Iraqi government also announced several initiatives and new policies to boost employment opportunities for young Iraqis, address the housing shortage and provide additional support to low-income groups.

To create new job opportunities, the new measures include:

  • The launch of a three-month training scheme for 150,000 graduates and non-graduates who are currently unemployed but are able work. Trainees will receive a grant of 175,000 Iraqi dinars per month while in training and those who successfully complete the training programme will be offered jobs with several investment projects in Iraq. They will also be offered loans to start their own small and medium size businesses, and business-ready plots of land to start their own industrial projects.
  • Simplifying company registration procedures for owners of new businesses aged 18-35 years and exempting them from any associated fees.
  • Train unemployed young graduates and others wishing to start manufacturing projects, with successfully completing the training programme and wish to start a project receiving funding from the Central Bank of Iraq.
  • Activate the Facilitated Agricultural Credit Fund to provide lending to those who are unemployed but have been allocated land for cultivation.
  • The Ministry of Education to take the necessary measures to contract lecturers on various internship/volunteer programmes and submit a request for financing these measures to be included in the 2020 Federal Budget.
  • On 15/10/2019, the Ministry of Defence will begin receiving online applications from young Iraqis aged 18-25 who wish to join the Armed Forces.
  • The Ministries of Defence and Interior to take the necessary measures to reinstate qualified groups of employees who were dismissed from service.

To address the housing shortage, the measures include:

  • Begin a national house-building programme to build 100,000 housing units across all provinces.
  • The completion of the process to distribute 17,000 plots of land for housing purposes to low income-groups in Basra Province.
  • Directing the relevant authorities to begin accepting applications from low-income groups for the distribution of land plots as decreed by the Cabinet earlier.
  • The establishment of the High Committee for the Distribution of Land.

To support low-income groups, the measures include:

  • Provincial governors and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to provide lists of 600,000 in-need families so they can receive social security payments.
  • A grant of 175,000 Iraqi dinars per month to be paid to 150,000 citizens who are unemployed and are unable to work. The payment to continue for three months.

To support farmers, the measures include:

  • Cancelling any accumulated unpaid rent for farmers who lease land from the Ministry of Agriculture for the period up to 31/21/2019.

To ensure rapid implementation of these and other policies, the Cabinet directed the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers to establish committees in Iraqi provinces.

The committees will report regularly to the Prime Minister and submit their final reports no later than three months.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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

When Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi led a delegation to China in September, Baghdad and Beijing activated an “oil for reconstruction” and investment program. Under the arrangement, Chinese firms work in Iraq in exchange for 100,000 barrels per day.

Iraq has said it needs more than $88 billion to develop and mend its rickety infrastructure after three years of combating the Islamic State (IS).

Speaking to the press, Abdul Mahdi said that, including this new deal, about 20% of Iraq’s daily oil production is being exported to China.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

The National Investment Commission (NIC) has announced the following investment opportunities:

(Source: National Investment Commission)

(Picture: Business opportunity word cloud, from ibreakstock/Shutterstock)

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.

By Saleem al-Wazzan.

Drinking water in Basra has been found to contain a disastrous cocktail of bacteria, as well as too much salt. Although multiple causes for this are clear, officials don’t seem to be able to solve the problem.

“The hospital corridors were crowded and the beds all full, so people were lying in the corridors,” Basra student, Jassem Ali, recalls. “The emergency ward was also full and sometimes there were two people in the same bed. Medicine was also in short supply.”

But Ali isn’t talking about a war zone – he is recounting his experiences at a local hospital after he fell ill, thanks to drinking the local water. Ali was vomiting and had terrible diarrhoea, simply from drinking from the local supply. He couldn’t eat anything for a week, he said, because he couldn’t hold it in.

The hospital he was in had run out of drips for patients – the drips delivered nutrients and liquids directly to the bloodstream because like Ali, most people couldn’t eat anything. So many patients were having to try and drink the necessary nutrients.

His is not the only story like this. Local woman, Saja Hussein, says she doesn’t even use the water to brush her teeth now. She thinks she became ill from washing her hair and showering. While in the emergency ward, she saw another woman die, after vomiting continuously for hours. “I was so shocked,” she says. “I cannot forget her face, even now.”

It is suspected that poisoned water in this area has caused intestinal diseases in up to 118,000 people. It’s also one of the reasons why locals were protesting so violently – around 22 were killed and over 600 injured – in Basra, in the summer of 2018.

There are all kinds of causes for Basra’s increasingly poisoned water – most of them are well known. Mahkram Fadhil, an engineer at Basra’s water authority, believes that not enough fresh water is being released in the Shatt al-Arab waterway. Usually fresh water from two large contributing rivers – the Euphrates and the Tigris – flushes out the river basin, which discharges into the sea. But the construction of large dams in upriver nations like Turkey, Iran and Syria, has led to a reduction of sweet water feeding into the basin and meant that the water here gets saltier, due to encroaching seawater.

“And the problem is that all the water sources used by our water purification stations depend on the Shatt al-Arab,” Fadhil explains. “The increasingly high salinity and the pollutants thrown into the waterways make it even worse.”

There’s also a lack of funding. “Since 2013, the department has lacked the money to provide chlorine for sterilization or to repair the older plants,” Fadhil noted.

There are 12 main water purification and pumping stations in Basra and dozens more smaller ones, up to an estimated 300 or so. Many are older, with some having been built decades ago and nearly all of them rely on water from the Shatt al-Arab. Others were built after 2003 but have never been fully operational, or operational at all, for reasons unknown. Even if they were all working to capacity though, it would be difficult for the plants to produce enough water – they can help to purify the water but they cannot desalinate it.

The locals and local businesses are far from blameless. Often there are no real legal deterrents to prevent factories from spewing pollution into the local waterways. Locals usually don’t pay their water bills either – it’s very hard to police the non-payers and most houses don’t have water meters anyway.

Samples of contaminated water were sent for testing, says Shukri al-Hassan, a marine science lecturer at Basra University. “The results confirmed the presence of all kinds of serious bacterial contamination, including cholera, E-Coli and giardia, among others.”

This nasty cocktail of bacteria was in samples from rivers branching off the Shatt al-Arab and reached right into the basin itself. This is despite the fact that the water samples were collected during the flood season, when the Shatt al-Arab’s levels are at their highest. However extra water didn’t seem to be enough to flush out the contaminants, al-Hassan noted, indicating just how serious and potentially long term this problem is.

Unfortunately, al-Hassan added, very few of the officials who read about these results appeared to care much about them. “I don’t think that the issue of water quality or pollution is high on anyone’s agenda,” he told NIQASH. “We haven’t really seen any moves to resolve this issue.”

According to government sources though, there is plenty going on. Reports suggest that there are hundreds of service-related projects underway, with a total budget of over US$3 billion. Of course, as always in Iraq, locals doubt whether the authorities can actually make some of these projects happen, given the fact that corruption and inefficiency is endemic.

Somewhat ironically there’s also a positive economic side to Basra’s water problems. It has given rise to thriving private sector specializing in water desalination and purification. There are thought to be around 200 such businesses – however most are not regulated or supervised for standards and cleanliness.

Local lawyer Hassan Salman says he bought a bottle of water provided by one of these private factories, only to find that it seemed to contain some sort of algae or fungi. He told NIQASH that he’d like to file a lawsuit against the responsible factory but that this is almost impossible, because there are so many factories and a lot of brands putting falsified labels on their water products.

Basically what Basra needs are some serious long-term strategies, local activist Haider Salam suggests. That could involve the construction of  a major desalination plant for making water potable, getting rid of inefficient old plants that no longer provide safe water and the building of new networks and pipelines.

“But local and central governments never think this way,” he argues. “Their focus is always on more urgent but also more temporary issues.”

By Hideki Matsunaga, for Brookings Institution.

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

Bitter experiences of reconstruction in the last two decades have made the international community hesitant to engage in robust reconstruction activities. Iraq’s reconstruction after the United States-led invasion in 2003 contributed significantly to this reluctance.

Between 2003 and 2014, more than $220 billion were spent on rebuilding the country. Despite the huge amount of money spent and extensive projects and programs implemented, the international community and the Iraqi people view the effort critically.

This perception makes the international community focus mainly on humanitarian relief and much less on engagement that requires medium- to long-term commitment.

The full report can be read here.

(Source: Brookings Institution)

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green announced the first tranche of recipients under USAID’s New Partnerships Initiative (NPI) on Thursday during his remarks at the Accord Network’s Annual Forum.

The organizations will carry out programs that improve global health outcomes in USAID’s partner countries, and assist populations in the Republic of Iraq that are recovering from the genocide perpetrated by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Administrator Green launched the NPI in May 2019 to expand and diversify USAID’s partner base and change the way the Agency does business. By working with new or underutilized partners, the Agency hopes to bring more innovative approaches to U.S. foreign assistance; focus on strengthening capacity and commitment in partner countries by tapping into existing networks of community- and faith-based organizations; and reach new populations.

Administrator Green also announced a new $18 million award to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to support the return and recovery of displaced religious and ethnic minority communities in the Nineveh Plains and Western Nineveh Province. Long-time USAID partner Samaritan’s Purse will receive $9 million of that total.

New USAID Assistance Through the NPI Direct to Local Iraqi Groups That Are Helping Victims of ISIS Genocide

USAID is awarding small grants through the NPI that total approximately $4 million to six local groups in Northern Iraq to help religious and ethnic minorities targeted by ISIS. The new NPI implementers in Northern Iraq are the following:

Philadelphia Organization for Relief and Development: The award will establish a community center in the town of Qaraqosh to provide services for people with disabilities, training in employment skills, child care, and a community food bank.

Catholic University of Erbil: The award will provide classes in business language and computer software for widows, victims of abuse, and former captives of ISIS.

Top Mountain: The award will support a business incubator and employment program for Iraqi youth, which will promote entrepreneurship, provide business training, and build commercial networks.

Shlama Foundation: The award seeks to improve job opportunities through training engineers on the installation on solar power, provide electricity for families, and install solar-powered pumps for farms and street lighting for villages.

Beth Nahrain: The award will help re-establish a local, women-led organization decimated by ISIS. The organization will also provide small-business vocational training to women in the Nineveh Plains.

Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights: The award will provide trauma-rehabilitation and resilience services to survivors of genocide; legal services and programs in justice/reparations; and activities to promote inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue.

The United States remains committed to supporting persecuted religious and ethnic minorities in Northern Iraq. With these new awards, the total assistance the U.S. Government has provided since 2017 in Northern Iraq is now more than $400 million. These programs complement H.R. 390, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018, which passed with bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress and which President Donald J. Trump signed into law on December 11, 2018. Additional U.S. humanitarian assistance has also benefited the same Iraqi communities.

New Funding for the IOM and Samaritan’s Purse to Help Victims of ISIS Genocide

Administrator Green also announced at the Accord Network that Samaritan’s Purse will receive $9 million as a part of a new $18 million award to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to support the return and recovery of displaced religious and ethnic minority communities in the Nineveh Plains and Western Nineveh Province in Iraq.

New USAID Assistance in Global Health Through the NPI

Administrator Green also announced two new awards under the Agency’s NPI for global health. These awards, which total $68 million, will leverage the expertise and reach of local and locally established civil society and faith- and community-based organizations to increase the quality, access, and sustainability of health care.

The new NPI implementers for global health are the following:

World Relief: Working with local partners, World Relief will expand and leverage existing community networks in four countries to help strengthen maternal, reproductive, and child health at the local level.

Palladium International: This program will help reach USAID’s goal of increasing access to, and the uptake of, high-quality health care across priority areas, in line with USAID’s Journey to Self-Reliance. The partner will provide sub-awards to local organizations, along with mentoring and technical support to strengthen their capacity. Palladium will be expected to pass sixty-five percent of the total award to new and underutilized sub-awardees.

(Source: USAID)

From The Economist.

Did American road-building in Iraq lead to more violence?

Drivers called it the “highway through hell”. Attacks on the road linking Baghdad to Amman occurred so often in 2014 that truckers were paid three times the normal rate to haul goods along the artery. Gangs and militias were a constant threat.

The jihadists of Islamic State set up roadblocks, charged drivers a tax of around $300 and even handed out receipts. The road, officially called Highway 10, was recently secured by the Iraqi army. But those who drive on it still face the threat of extortion or attack.

America spent loads improving Highway 10 after 2003, the year it toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s former dictator. Over the next decade, as the war in Iraq dragged on, America spent nearly $12bn on infrastructure in the country.

President George Bush touted the improved roads, hoping they would boost the local economy and lead to a reduction in violence. But a working paper presented at this year’s meeting of the European Economics Association suggests that the effort may have had the opposite effect.

Read the full article here (subscription needed).

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.

By Mustafa Habib.

Many countries in the Middle East are experiencing climate change first-hand already, with rising temperatures in summers that were already infernally hot to begin with, and less rainfall in winter.

Nations in this region are drawing up contingency plans with huge budgets in order to cope with the impending, severe water shortages they know will come. But Iraq is not one of them.

Thanks to various crises, in both political and security terms, as well as the country’s ongoing struggle with corruption, Iraq could be one of the first nations in this region to really feel the impact of ever-increasing water shortages.

It’s also becoming even more of a foreign policy issue. Last week, Iraqi officials were supposed to sign a deal on sharing the waters of the Tigris river with Turkish counterparts, a deal that they described as “important”. The Tigris passes through Turkey before it gets to Iraq. But, seemingly without much notice, the Turkish government cancelled the meeting and apparently the agreement until further notice.

“A delegation from the ministry was scheduled to visit Turkey but the Turks have now told us they are not yet ready to sign such an agreement,” explains Mehdi Rasheed, who supervises Iraqi dams for the Ministry of Water Resources.

Iran is the other prominent player in Iraq’s water supply. While the Tigris passes through Turkey, the other major river in Iraq, the Euphrates, passes through Iran first. Iraq is downriver to both countries.

The problem is that both Iran and Turkey seem to have plans to deal with impending water crises by building huge dams to store water from the two rivers. In this case, Iraq is a victim.

A report from the Ministry of Water Resources suggests that over the past few years Iraq has lost around a third of the water it once had out of the Tigris and the Euphrates. Taking into account the impact of global warming, the ministry estimates that the country will have lost around half of the water it once had from out of these waterways soon.

Previously Iraq was using 33 billion cubic meters of water out of the Euphrates. Today it can only access 16 billion cubic meters. A similar situation impacts the Tigris.

And Iraq doesn’t have the huge finances or planning ability to undertake its own similar projects. Major construction like this requires a stable country without the levels of financial and administrative corruption that Iraq has. In Iraq, even paving a small road appears to take months, possibly even years, to finish.

During the previous government, headed by former prime minister Haider al-Abadi, a 20-year plan to address the country’s water problems was formulated in 2014. It would cost an estimated US$184 billion. However the security crisis sparked by the extremist group known as the Islamic State meant the plan never came to fruition.

The kind of fight for water being played out across international borders is also reflected in Iraqis’ daily lives. Water supplies are regularly cut off to private households during the day, in peak times, often between 11am and 9pm. According to a technician at the water ministry, around one-fifth of Iraqis used to have small, household water pumps at home. Although it’s hard to know how many citizens now have them, the [pumps have become ubiquitous in the last five years. A small water pump is now part of basic household equipment.

It seems that today there is almost no home – even in low-income areas – that doesn’t use its own pump. Sometimes the pumps don’t work – the pipelines are so dry that there’s nothing for them to bring up. Other times, these pumps are not used correctly and bring contaminated water into city pipelines – this makes the water problem even worse.

So now Iraqi households are competing to buy bigger and better water pumps for home use. Neighbours with smaller pumps are then unable to get water.

Another problem in Iraq is wastefulness when it comes to water supplies. There is no control over consumption and nobody pays water bills to the government, because there’s no way of tracking or tracing the debtors.

There’s simply not enough awareness about climate change and the possible, resulting water crisis, says Mazen al-Jibouri, a civil rights activist from Baghdad. “In most countries there are organizations and activists that focus on water pollution and supply. But in Iraq, everyone is preoccupied with security and service-related issues or freedom of expression.”

“We all know our country is going to be victim to droughts and the climate crisis,” al-Jibouri concluded. “But any response requires cooperation between the government the people. We need a big campaign to raise awareness – before it is too late.”

By John Lee.

Baghdad-based has won a tender for the rehabilitation of internal roads in Al Ramadi (pictured) from United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

The contract is valued at $567,840.

(Source: UNGM)