By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraq:

(Source: UN)

Intelyse, a Sicuro Group company, has announced that it is will provide extraction flights for clients to get them home from Iraq.

It will fly people from Baghdad and Erbil to Doha, using a 150-seat Boeing 737-700.

The first flight goes into Iraq next week with a further two flights to follow.

(Source: Sicuro)

Over the past few years, Iraq’s health system has faced many challenges, including internal conflict and the world’s biggest mass displacement in 2014-2016, all of which had a tough toll on an already fragile health system.

With the detection of COVID-19 in China in December 2019, WHO immediately initiated preparedness efforts, and arranged a series of technical meetings with emergency teams in both federal and regional ministries of health to assess health facilities’ resources and preparedness capacities to respond to a potential importation of the disease.

The sudden eruption of the virus in neighbouring Islamic Republic of Iran scaled up the risk of the disease spread in Iraq and necessitated faster prevention and infection control measures especially in the holy cities and pilgrimage sites, bordering governorates, and vulnerable communities in internally displaced and refugee camps.

Dr Adham Ismail, WHO Representative and Head of Mission in Iraq, said:

WHO is aware of the impact of a pandemic like COVID-19 on Iraq’s health sector and recovering services.

“We discussed with the health authorities in the Center and Kurdistan Region the means of urgent support to contain the transmission of the disease in the country. Joint work is underway and cooperation is at highest levels.

On 2 February, WHO proactively began strengthening national disease surveillance capacities in Iraq and providing case definition and management training, in addition to large-scale risk communications activities.

Hundreds of thousands of prevention and transmission control messages were printed and provided to 20 directorates of health in the 18 governorates, including the Kurdistan region governorates of Erbil, Dohuk, and Suleimaniya.

Mobile health teams took to main streets, public and religious places, remote cities and hard-to-reach villages in addition to airports, border points, state institutions, and camps hosting refugees and internally displaced people.

Maha Salam and Najah Ahmed from Wasit Directorate of Health in Wasit governorate, eastern Iraq, were among the mobile health team distributing WHO health messages to the public as early as 16 February 2020.

Early mobilization campaigns to distribute WHO COVID-19 educational materials succeeded in raising public awareness and readying preparedness efforts to protect individual health and that of the community in general.

WHO is working with the federal and regional ministries of health to increase and augment case management capacities, as well as detection and surveillance.

An urgent consignment of PPEs and laboratory test kits was delivered to ministries of health to enable the timely detection of cases and protect health workers in designated hospitals.

As of 30 March, Iraq reported a total of 572 confirmed cases with 42 deaths and 143 recoveries all over the country. The reported figures are still moderate so far, but WHO expects a spike in the coming two weeks due to the scale up in laboratory testing capacity which are going to be of high importance in terms of infection transmission and control,” concluded Dr Ismail.

(Source: WHO)

By John Lee.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is investing over $26 million in a new 161-bed hospital in Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

The facility will increase the availability of quality healthcare services and help address gaps in the country’s healthcare infrastructure. The $92 million Seema Hospital project is expected to open its doors in 2021. In addition to providing core health services, it will be one of the city’s first private hospitals with oncology, radiotherapy, and burn units.

Treatment capacity in existing public and private healthcare facilities in Iraq is limited, with damages to the system estimated at $2.3 billion because of the conflict, according to a World Bank report. The hospital is owned by the Macrom Company for General Trading.

Yaseen Al Bazzaz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Macrom Company for General Trading, said

“Since opening our first hospital in 2006, we have grown into a leading provider of specialized health care services … Hundreds of patients are traveling desperately to neighboring countries for their medical needs. This will change once Seema Hospital opens and provides top-notch healthcare solutions.”

IFC is also contributing technical expertise, advising on environmental and social best practices, and providing guidance on corporate governance. The project is part of the World Bank Group’s strategy in Iraq to develop social infrastructure. Seema Hospital also will be one of the first buildings in Iraq to be certified by IFC EDGE, a platform that helps to determine the most cost-effective options for designing green buildings.

Tomasz Telma, IFC’s Senior Director for Manufacturing, Agribusiness, and Services, said:

“Iraq is a priority country for IFC, and we are committed to supporting its economic growth and health infrastructure … Investing in quality hospitals helps improve care, especially where there is often limited access to effective secondary and tertiary facilities, and introduce expertise, technology, and best practices to these markets.”  

IFC has increased its investments in Iraq during the last decade. Its committed portfolio stands at about $254 million, up from $20 million in 2010.

As Iraq and other countries battle COVID-19, the World Bank Group, in response to the crisis, has announced $14 billion package of financing to help support  countries to strengthen health systems and improve disease surveillance worldwide.

(Source: IFC)

Due to a combination of security conditions and restricted travel options as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the US State Department has ordered the departure of designated U.S. Government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, and the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil.

Visa services at both posts remain suspended.  The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq.

Please note that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is not providing public services.  U.S. citizens in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region who need emergency services can contact ErbilACS@state.gov.  U.S. citizens elsewhere in Iraq should contact BaghdadACS@state.govfor emergency assistance.

If you are a U.S. citizen in Iraq on a temporary visit and desire assistance to return to the United States when a flight is available, please contact ErbilACS@state.gov or BaghdadACS@state.gov.

Actions to Take:

  • Depart Iraq by commercial transportation as soon as possible
  • Monitor local media for updates
  • Review personal security plans
  • Remain aware of surroundings
  • Review the complete Travel Advisory for Iraq
  • Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas

Assistance:

  • American Citizen Services Unit, U.S. Embassy Baghdad (public access suspended) or U.S. Consulate Erbil – 413 Ishtar, Ankawa, Erbil, Iraq

(Source: US Embassy)

By John Lee.

Harekar Company for Security Services LLC has won a contract with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to supply Vehicle Rental Services for the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Iraq Programme in Erbil.

The contract is worth $119,700.

(Source: UNGM)

WHO technical mission visits Iraq to step up COVID-19 detection and response activities

A high-level technical mission from the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded a visit to Iraq to support the Iraqi Ministry of Health response to COVID-19 (coronavirus) prevention and containment measures.

The mission, which comprised experts from the Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean Region and headquarters in Geneva, held a series of meetings with national health authorities to identify the disease detection dynamics and at-risk populations, in addition to providing guidance on strengthening response and control measures.

The mission also reviewed the Ministry’s overall readiness to deal with a potential increase in case reporting and the priority of establishing an Emergency Operation Centre to speed up action now that the disease has been announced as a global pandemic.

WHO experts visited the Central Public Health Laboratory to assess the national laboratory capacity and availability of test kits. They also visited the Communicable Disease Control Centre and designated health facilities in Baghdad to review the ongoing response by nationals and assess the technical support required in the coming period.

Iraq reported its first case of COVID 19 – an Iranian student in Iraq on 22 February 2020 – followed by 4 cases for members of one family with a travel history to Islamic Republic of Iran. Case reporting escalated to include almost all Iraqi governorates. The total number of cases reported as of 12 March stands at 83 confirmed cases, 24 recovered, and 8 deaths.

There is growing concern among the local health authorities about the possibility of domestic transmission of the disease which would challenge the already vulnerable health system in the country, stretched by years of wars and internal crises.

The health authorities have already banned major public events, suspended schools, and closed malls and gathering places until 21 March.

WHO has so far provided and will further provide the Ministry of Health at both central and regional levels with sufficient supplies of laboratory test kits and personal protective equipment to allow for a quick response to severe cases.

In addition, WHO is working around the clock to establish 3 negative-pressure rooms in Baghdad, Erbil and Basra to accommodate patients who might require more sophisticated medical treatment.

(Source: UN)

ILO opens its first coordination office in Baghdad

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has opened its first Iraq country coordination office, in the capital Baghdad.

The office will allow the ILO to provide better support to the government, workers and employers of Iraq in promoting decent work and increasing employment opportunities. It will also enable the ILO to support other UN agencies in development-focused work across Iraq.

The establishment of the ILO Programme Coordination Office comes in response to a request made by Iraq’s Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, during an ILO Governing Body session in 2019.

ILO Regional Director for Arab States, Ruba Jaradat, said reinforced ILO engagement in Iraq will work to address labour market challenges and promote decent employment, strengthen social protection, boost growth rates, and decrease fragile and informal labour.

“As Iraq recovers from decades of conflict, we look forward to providing our constituents with the necessary support in order to generate urgently-needed jobs and decent work,” Jaradat said. “The new coordination office will also enable the ILO to better engage with other UN agencies working in Iraq, and support the transition from a mostly humanitarian to a more development-focused approach to UN work in the country. As we look to a post-crisis Iraq, the ILO’s presence on the ground becomes essential to ensure that decent work is at the heart of Iraq’s recovery and reform processes.”

The office will coordinate implementation of Iraq’s first Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) , launched in December 2019. The DWCP, which runs until 2023, supports national initiatives on employment promotion, rights at work, social dialogue and social protection. It will be implemented through close partnerships between the ILO, the government, and employers’ and workers’ representatives in the country.

The DWCP will include development of a national employment policy, employment services, skills and enterprises. There will also be a nation-wide labour force survey, and an employment intensive investment programme (EIIP).

Country programme coordinator Maha Kattaa will head the office and act as the ILO representative in Iraq. As well as coordinating on existing work with a project office in Erbil, the Baghdad office will oversee implementation of a large portfolio of projects. These include the Iraq component of an eight-country programme to improve employment and education prospects for refugees, internally displaced persons and the local host communities. The programme is being jointly implemented by the ILO, the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, UNICEF and UNHCR, and is funded by the Government of the Netherlands,

Iraq has been a member of the ILO  since 1932 and has ratified 68 ILO Conventions , including all eight fundamental Conventions.

Since 2004 the ILO and Iraq’s government, workers’ and employers’ organizations have worked together closely to bolster Decent Work  and develop the labour market in different areas of the country, as part of the post-war reconstruction efforts.

Recent joint achievements include the adoption of a new Labour Law to improve Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work ; The ratification of ILO Convention 87 on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize  and ILO Convention 187 on the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health . A roadmap for public employment services in Iraqi Kurdistan has also been designed.

(Source: ILO)

Briefing to the Security Council by Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert 3 March 2020

Mister President, thank you so much
Distinguished members of the Security Council,

Iraq has not left the headlines in recent months, as domestic, regional and international events have continued to take their toll on the country.
And while we will explore these events today, I choose to begin with hope:

  • The hope of a people who remain united in their determination for a more just and prosperous future;
  • The hope of a sovereign nation that refuses to become a battleground for conflicts that are not its own;
  • And the hope that Iraq may very well find itself at the most opportune moment for genuine and lasting political reform in a generation.

But for this to materialize, political leaders and communities will have to step up to the plate: placing the country’s interest above all else, building domestic strength.

And within this context, it is important not to sugar coat the current harsh reality.

The many brave Iraqis – who continue to pay an unimaginable price for their voices to be heard – deserve that we recognize the intolerable abuses they have been subjected to.

The killings. The abductions. The violence. The intimidation. The threats. These abhorrent human rights violations are ongoing and fly in the face of all that is decent. They have no place in a democracy, any democracy.

And yes, of course, we do recognize the challenges of operating within a fluid, puzzling security context with multiple actors. However, as I have stated many times: the ultimate responsibility for the peoples’ safety and security undeniably rests with the State.

It is therefore imperative to put an end to these abuses. Moreover, it is imperative that perpetrators be brought to justice. Impunity ends where accountability begins.

And let me emphasize: justice and accountability are a matter of burning importance to the many Iraqis who have lost their loved ones or seen them injured, for no other reason than expressing their frustration with poor economic, social and political prospects.

Justice and accountability should also be a pressing matter for the State of Iraq. The rule of law must be strengthened if public trust is to take root.

Now Mister President,
As I have stated time and again: Iraq’s problems did not occur overnight, nor will they be solved in an instant.

Yet times of crisis also present opportunities. And I sincerely hope that Iraqi political leaders will recognise in this moment the crossroads where they either stand idle, or where they place themselves in the service of their countrymen and women. But I have to say: the critical window of opportunity is closing fast.

Now, with regard to the participation of Iraqi women in the ongoing public protests, it is unprecedented and marks a new page in the history of women’s grassroots mobilization in Iraq. Political leaders should heed this call.
Going back to the streets: the security picture is undeniably complex and most challenging to manage. We witness ambiguously identified armed entities with unclear loyalties. And we see groups or individuals using the cover of peaceful protesters and/or security forces to muddy the issues, misleading the public, harming the country’s interest, confusing the scene and causing casualties.

All of this is part of Iraq’s tough reality.

And as Secretary-General Guterres recently stated: “The large number of armed groups operating outside state control is preventing the country from functioning as a normal state.”

However, it bears repeating that this is not something political leaders should hide behind. On the contrary. They must dismantle or formally integrate these armed entities under full state control without delay. In other words: this is no excuse for political and governmental inaction.

Now Mister President,
After five months of protests, and the many injured and killed, it should be clear that peaceful protesters – backed by a silent majority – it should be clear that they will not budge on their aspirations. Now, this should be the political class’ first and last concern – but so far, we have seen few results.
And let me be clear: delivering on the demands of the people will require a collective effort. I again emphasize that no Prime Minister can go it alone. Every single political actor and leader is fully responsible for restoring the critical confidence of the public in their government and its institutions.

Late last November, the Prime Minister announced his resignation, which was soon approved by Parliament and the President.

The designation of a new Prime-Minister, and subsequent attempts to form a new government, ultimately failed due to distrust and disunity. This led to a complicated situation in which the Prime Minister-designate was not able to obtain sufficiently broad support to form his government within 30 days.

Within the last three days, we saw the withdrawal of the candidacy of the Prime Minister-designate – accepted by the President -, and the announcement by the previous and current caretaker Prime Minister that he was stepping back from most of his duties while calling on parliament to seek early elections in December 2020.
Constitutionally, the President now has another 15 days to nominate a new PM-designate, whose government and programme would again be subject to parliamentary endorsement. And While political consultations are ongoing, the question remains whether political parties will find a new consensus-candidate within these time limits.

Clearly, all this prolongs uncertainty and causes significant challenges – further eroding public trust.

Mister President,
One way or another: the road ahead remains fraught with difficulties.

I already mentioned the pressing need for accountability and justice. And another top priority is corruption: perhaps the greatest source of dysfunction in Iraq, and sadly, a core feature of Iraq’s current political economy. It is built into everyday transactions.

A related feature of Iraq’s political economy is its reliance on patronage and clientelism. This has resulted in a ballooning, inefficient public service that functions more as an instrument of political favour than as a servant of the people.

Now, A cynic would describe this “payroll corruption” as the perfect electoral mobilization strategy, where – perversely – low turnout benefits those pursuing their own narrow, partisan and/or transactional objectives.

Now It is important to tackle the system as precisely that: a system and not just a series of individuals or occurrences. Each bribe or favour serves to reinforce the existing structure.

Therefore, full systemic reform will be necessary. And no one understands this better than the Iraqi woman and man whose chances of a more prosperous life continue to be undermined by a system which ignores them.

Mister President,
Iraq is by no means a poor country, but as I said: private and partisan interests conspire to divert resources away from critical investment in the way forward.

Iraq’s massive oil wealth has financed a crude rentier system that sees enormous revenues converted to salaries in unproductive sectors.

Now While external factors (such as regional tensions and oil price fluctuations), while they continue to weigh on the national economy, there are internal factors which Iraq can control. Reducing bureaucracy, increasing the ease of doing business, strengthening the rule of law, anti-corruption mechanisms: these measures can all incentivize the domestic private sector while attracting foreign investment. These steps are necessary to build a healthy environment that is conducive to broad-based, fairly distributed growth and employment generation.

Iraq must also build, repair and upgrade critical infrastructure, and broaden its revenue base to reduce its dependency on hydrocarbons. Now, Agriculture is already showing promise – good news – as a candidate for investment. And an agricultural revival, in the birthplace of agriculture, will not only improve employment and social cohesion (notably in liberated rural areas) but also strengthen Iraqi food security.

And Within this context, I would also like to highlight the creative resilience of the Iraqi people. Because If one looks beyond the statistics and legal structures, we observe – on the street – plenty of commercial activity. And One can only imagine what this spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship could achieve if freed from the burdens of red tape and bribes.

Mister President,
An important aspect of corruption is illicit financial flows: they not only help explain why Iraqis continue to await roads, hospitals, schools, and legal employment opportunities. They also contribute to further destabilization, by providing channels for the financing of organized crime and violent extremism.

And with regards to violent extremism, we cannot ignore the continued threat of terrorism.

Although ISIL has been defeated territorially, it continued – in the past two months – its attempts to increase its military operations in northeastern Diyala, northern Baghdad and areas of western Iraq.

it goes without saying that ISIL must not be allowed to regroup and recruit. And while constructive negotiations between Iraq’s government and its allies are ongoing, following the vote on the parliamentary resolution on the presence of foreign troops, Iraq’s allies continue to assist the government and its institutions in the fight against ISIL.

Now It is obvious that a strong state which has a monopoly on the use of force is best equipped to face these multiple security threats. And of course, an equally powerful tool against violent extremism is fairness and justice.

Mr. President, turning to the need for free, fair and credible elections. While the “electoral reset” is a top priority for many – broad, underlying systemic reform and a strong, independent electoral commission will prove crucial.

In other words: the newly appointed electoral commission will need to stand with greater resolve in adhering to the principles of transparency, accountability, independence and professionalism as they rebuild the commission’s institutional capacities and kick-start technical electoral preparations.

Moreover, in order to firm up the electoral calendar, there is an immediate need to complete the electoral legal framework. Parliament must act on pending, urgent elements of the electoral law, in particular constituency demarcation and seat apportionment, hopefully bringing voters closer to the candidates and making future elected representatives accountable to their constituents.

Now Turning to Baghdad-Erbil relations, notwithstanding an encouraging preliminary deal between the KRG and the Federal Government on oil and revenue sharing, we continue to await a final, long-term and sustainable agreement on this file as well as on security co-operation and Sinjar.

Mr. President,
I think we can all agree that the volatile domestic and regional climate took an extraordinary toll on Iraq in the past months. To point out the obvious, the state-to-state violence we saw play out across Iraq earlier this year, was received as a clear and substantial threat to the country.

The modus operandi and rules of engagement have shifted, and the risk of rogue action by armed groups with unclear reporting lines is a constant concern.

Beyond the immediate security threat, this also takes critical political attention away from urgent unfinished domestic business. But As I have stated before, regional security developments should not eclipse domestic priorities.

Now The question is whether Iraq will flourish as a venue for peace and understanding, or suffer as the arena of external battles.

Mr President,
I will now turn to the issue of missing Kuwaiti, third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives.

Hopes renewed in January when new human remains were discovered and exhumed from a third grave in Samawa. Despite a very challenging operational context, the Iraqi Ministry of Defence has demonstrated commendable focus on this important file, leading the excavation efforts with assistance from the ICRC.

And I truly hope that the DNA identification of these newly discovered human remains, as well as those that are still being analysed in Kuwait, that it will prove positive and that it will bring closure to the families and relatives of those who went missing nearly thirty years ago.

The contribution of the Tripartite Committee members through the provision and analysis of satellite imagery, supported by witness information, it all proved crucial in locating the Samawa sites. And I would like to call all members of the Committee to continue their steadfast support to the efforts underway for other potential burial sites.

Mr President,
In closing, It was my intention to conclude with words of hope. But the ongoing political indecisiveness and dissension, leading to a further paralysis in decision-making, unfortunately do not give cause for immediate optimism. The country and its people continue to be pushed into the unknown.

Also, the repeated pattern of parliamentary sessions which have failed to reach quorum is exactly the opposite of what the country needs, especially during a period of acute political crisis. The fundamental mandate of an elected representative is: to be present, to be counted and to vote.

Now Like I said last time: out of the ongoing political crisis – a fairer, stronger and inherently more resilient Iraq can emerge. But again, for this to materialize: political leaders will have to act fast, placing the country’s interest above all else.

Iraq must and can find strength in diversity, recognizing a cohesive society as more than the sum of its parts.

Putting out one fire after the other is no strategy. It must move from constant crisis management to sustainable and stable politics, building resilience through deep and broad systemic reform. And as we all know: at the end of the day, Mr. President, strength at home is a prerequisite for strength abroad.

Thank you.

(Source: UN)

Advertising Feature

Rabee Securities Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) market report (week ending: 27th February 2020).

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

The RSISX index ended the week at IQD600 (+0.5%) / $6439 (+0.1%) (weekly change) (9.0% and -8.2% YTD change, respectively). The number of week traded shares was 6.1 bn and the weekly trading volume was IQD5.8 bn ($4.8 mn).

ISX Company Announcements

  • ISX will suspend trading of Elaf Islamic Bank (BELF) starting Mar. 5, 2020 due to the AGM that will be held on Mar. 10, 2020 to discuss and approve 2018 annual financial statements.
  • Al-Qabedh Islamic Bank for Finance & Investment (BQAB) resumed trading on Feb. 27, 2020 after discussing and approving the financial statements belong to following periods Jan. 1, 2015 – Dec. 31, 2015, Jan. 1, 2016 – Oct. 17, 2016 (while it was a money transfer company), and the following periods Oct. 8, 2016 – Dec. 31, 2016, Jan. 1, 2017 – Dec. 31, 2017 belong to it after becoming an Islamic Bank.
  • Iraq Baghdad for General Transport (SBPT) invited its shareholders to receive their 2018 dividends. The company announced in December 2019 that it had decided in its AGM held on Dec. 15, 2019 to distribute 100% cash dividend (IQD1.00 dividend per share, 4.9% dividend yield).
  • ISX requested Erbil Bank for Investment and Finance (BERI) to provide its AGM minutes for the GA held on Feb. 22, 2020.
  • Mansour Hotel (HMAN) resumed trading on Feb. 25, 2020 after discussing and approving 2018 annual financial statements.
  • According to the ISC decision, Al Nibal Al Arabya for Money Transfer (MTNI) has been delisted from the ISX starting Feb. 24, 2020 due to the shift in the company’s activities from money transfer company into an (A) class exchange company and lower the company’s capital to suit its new activity.
  • ISX suspended trading of Al-Ameen Financial Investment (VAMF) starting Feb. 24, 2020 due to the GA that will be held on Feb. 27, 2020 to elect 5 new original and 5 alternative board members.
  • Cross transactions: 3.1 bn shares of Trans Iraq Bank for Investment (BTRI) on Feb. 27, 2020, which represents 1.2% of BTRI’s capital.