IOM Iraq’s Enterprise Development Fund (EDF) encourages rapid, large-scale private sector job creation and economic recovery through tailored support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The EDF is a financing mechanism that provides SMEs with financial capital to contribute to their recovery and/or expansion.

To assess the capacity of the market to absorb medium-sized grants, the EDF market assessment was rolled out in Kirkuk, Fallujah, and Mosul in November 2018.

The assessment was led by IOM Iraq’s Return and Recovery Unit (RRU) and contributes to the necessary groundwork to introduce the EDF in any location.

Please see below the assessments for three governorates:

(Source: IOM)

Even after the military defeat of ISIS, the Netherlands will continue working to ensure security and stability in Iraq and the wider region. Foreign minister Stef Blok made this point during his trip to Jordan and Iraq. ‘We have to do this to prevent ISIS from regaining strength,’ he said.

Since the Netherlands joined the international fight against ISIS in 2014, the campaign has enjoyed great success. Almost all the territory once controlled by the group has been retaken. More than 7 million people have been freed from ISIS’s rule, and displaced people are returning to their homes and resuming their lives.

‘Now that ISIS has been defeated militarily, the focus is shifting to post-war reconstruction,’ Mr Blok said. ‘Putting ISIS combatants on trial is also crucial. Security and stability are preconditions for proceeding with the next phase. The Netherlands is working to strengthen its ties with Iraq and Jordan. That’s why I think it’s important for me to be here, so that we can set to work together on enhancing security.’

The Dutch partnership with Iraq and Jordan has already taken off. For example, last month in The Hague Mr Blok and Jordanian King Abdullah II both took part in the international ‘Aqaba meetings’ on counterterrorism.

Stability

A year ago Iraq was declared liberated from ISIS. In 2019 Dutch efforts will focus on capacity building in Iraq’s security sector. About 70 Dutch military personnel are currently training Iraqi security forces, including Kurdish Peshmerga. ‘The work of these Dutch trainers has great added value,’ said the Dutch foreign minister. ‘Their labours will equip Iraq to meet its own future security needs.’

Stability in Iraq is in the Netherlands’ interests. It will reduce the threat of terrorism, lower the risk of new refugee flows, and increase the likelihood of return for displaced people. ‘I’m seeing here with my own eyes how much devastation ISIS’s terror caused,’ said Mr Blok. ‘It’s in this phase above all, as Iraq rebuilds, that the Netherlands can help the country ensure that its victory over ISIS is a lasting one. That will allow the displaced and the refugees to return home.’

Construction and recovery

During his visit to the Iraqi city of Fallujah, the Dutch minister reopened a hospital that had been damaged in the fighting. ‘There was a huge battle against ISIS in Fallujah,’ he said. ‘This is the furthest point the group reached in its advance towards Baghdad, which is only a few dozen kilometres from here. Until recently, following ISIS’s devastating attack, Fallujah was cut off from the world. The fact that this hospital can now once more open its doors speaks volumes about how far Iraq has come.’

With support from a development cooperation fund, the Netherlands financed the rebuilding of the Fallujah Teaching Hospital and repairs to the city’s iconic bridge over the Euphrates, which Mr Blok also visited while he was in Fallujah. Alongside this support, additional Dutch aid to the region is helping restabilise it.

Refugees

Over the past few years, the fighting with ISIS turned millions of people into refugees. The consequences have been felt not only in the region but also in Europe, including the Netherlands. Mr Blok visited a refugee camp in Jordan: ‘The countries around Syria are bearing a heavy burden,’ he said. ‘Bear in mind that almost one person in ten in Jordan today is a Syrian refugee.’ The Netherlands is helping by funding jobs and education for these refugees and supporting Jordanian communities that are hosting them.

Dutch F-16s

The Netherlands, Jordan and Iraq are all members of the anti-ISIS coalition. Over the past few years Jordan has hosted the F16s that the Netherlands has committed to the fight. Now that their deployment has reached its end, the F16s are about to return to the Netherlands. Mr Blok paid a visit to the 150 Dutch military personnel in Jordan who will be heading home in a few weeks. ‘These men and women have made an essential contribution to the often fierce battle against ISIS, and I want to thank them for everything they’ve done,’ he said.

(Source: Govt of the Netherlands)

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Iraqi city of Fallujah in Anbar province is struggling to recover, two years after the Iraqi army defeated ISIL fighters.

Their battle left the city in ruins. As well as reconstructing destroyed buildings and creating jobs, the local government is also handing out compensation.

But some complain the process is unfair.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Matheson reports from Baghdad, Iraq.

By John Lee.

The National Investment Commission (NIC) has announced new investment opportunities in Iraq:

  1. Glass production, State Company for Glass and Refractories
  2. Overhead Cranes, State Company for Steel Industries
  3. Fallujah Cement Plant, Iraqi State Cement Company

(Source: National Investment Commission)

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

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the arrests to which two investigative reporters have been subjected in different parts of Iraq in the past few days in connection with their coverage of corruption, and calls for an end to the harassment of these journalists.

The latest victim was Mostafa Hamed, a reporter based in Fallujah, in the western province of Al Anbar, where he works for the local TV channel Sharqeya. He was arrested at his home at 2 a.m. on 9 June by policemen who did not tell him what he was charged with, and was finally released today without being charged.

According to the information gathered by the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO), RSF’s partner NGO in Iraq, Hamed had been investigating the involvement of Fallujah city hall leaders in a real estate scandal. Sharqeya is owned by Saad al Bazzaz, a local businessman and political rival of Al Anbar’s governor, who tried to get the TV channel closed last December.

The other recent victim is Hossam al Kaabi (pictured), a reporter based in Najaf, 180 km south of Baghdad, who has repeatedly been harassed in connection with his coverage of an alleged corruption case involving the Najaf provincial airport’s former governing board.

What with money, women and threats, every kind of method has been used in an attempt to silence his reporting on the case, he said. The corruption case is however by no means a secret. He has also been the target of dozens of legal actions. The latest method was an arrest warrant, which resulted in his having to pay the large sum of 15 million dinars (10,745 euros) in bail to obtain his release on 6 June.

The warrant was the result of a complaint filed by Najaf airport’s former administration four days after Kaabi’s main media outlet, the NRT network’s Arabic-language channel, was forced to close for financial reasons. Defended by a consortium of lawyers, Kaabi told RSF he is concerned about the outcome because of the lack of judicial independence in Iraq.

“These two arrest warrants highlight the different kinds of difficulties for journalists in Iraq, which not only include being unjustly prosecuted but also the risk of seeing your work used for the purposes of the political rivalry,” said Sophie Anmuth, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The absurd proceedings against Hossam al Kaabi must be dropped and the authorities must do their duty to protect journalists who are the target of threats.”

As Kaabi points out on Facebook, in theory Iraqi law protects the right of journalists to seek information and sources. But in practice, as JFO has often reported, local officials act with impunity when they use judicial pressure and sometimes death threats to pressure journalists who investigate corruption.

Iraq is ranked 160th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

(Source: RSF)

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 Kamal al-Ayash.

One of the country’s best known resorts, where different community groups used to holiday together, is slowly coming back to life, after several years in the middle of extremist-held territory.

Once it was one of Iraq’s most important and beloved tourist resorts. First opened in the late 1970s, Lake Habbaniyah boasted a large hotel, complete with over 300 rooms and 500 holiday chalets. Located 60 kilometres out of Fallujah and west of Baghdad, it offered Iraqis a respite from heat and, at one stage, from violence. Because it didn’t matter what sect you were here, enamoured visitors told the AFP news agency back in 2012.

But the tropical dream holiday has gone through hard times. Over the past few years it mainly made headlines because the resort was being occupied by displaced Iraqis who had fled the extremist group known as the Islamic State. The extremist group had been in control of many of the areas around Habbaniyah.

Which is why it was such a surprise recently when Iraqi reporters touring the somewhat desolate resort heard loud music. It was coming from a small tour bus filled with young people. The bus was actually leaving Habbaniyah but the reporters, including NIQASH’s correspondent, were curious and approached the vehicle.

“When life started to return to Anbar after the defeat of the IS group, we started to think about organizing trips to Habbaniyah again,” the driver of the bus, Saleh al-Issawi, explained to the journalists. “Some friends came and suggested that I organize a trip because I’m from here. So this is it, our first trip!”

“And it was a successful one,” adds Ahmad al-Jibouri, a 32-year-old originally from Baghdad, who was also on the bus. “We are going to spread the word about this beautiful area now that it is secure again. We all own minivans and we usually take people from one province to another. So we’re going to try and start bringing people to this area in the weekends and make some extra money with the excursions.”

 

The resort as it looks today. (pics: Kamal al-Ayash)

 

Al-Jibouri believes the only way to bring peace back to Iraq is by bringing people together in places like this, where holiday makers co-existed happily. He also notes that various diners and shops on the road into Habbaniyah have re-opened and are ready for tourists once again. They too have started to promote the destination on social media like Facebook.

Ayoub al-Jumaili, 48, owns one of best-known souvenir and tourist-friendly stories on the route into the resort and he is looking forward to a good season. “Things are not yet quite as we would like them to be,” he concedes. “We are still lacking a few services and facilities but that is temporary,” states the resident of Fallujah.

Naturally tourists are also worried about security in the area. Anbar, a mostly-Sunni Muslim province, was home many fighters of the extremist Islamic State group, which controlled several of the province’s major cities. The Iraqi government managed to maintain security in Habbaniyah though.

The commander of the regiment in charge of protecting the Habbaniyah area insists that it is now safe. “The tourist town and the neighbouring villages were a safe haven for displaced people while most of the province was under the control of the extremists,” the officer, Uday al-Issawi, points out. “It wasn’t an easy thing to keep it secure and our main challenge was to keep the roads leading in here safe. Strict measures have been taken and protecting people who want to spend time here is a priority for leaders in Anbar and Baghdad,” he explains.

 

The resort’s amusement ark today, in disrepair.

 

Also feeling positive was Jakoub Taha, the head of the department of maintenance for the resort. He and his colleagues had been able to overcome significant challenges, he said, including moving the displaced Iraqis who had been living here out again and then repairing the needed facilities.

He said that he had been tempted to leave the job several times because it was so frustrating. Local investors had put money into the resort but thanks to instability caused by the security crisis between 2014 and now, they had virtually all abandoned their plans. The larger hotel complex, the lakeside beach, larger restaurants and theatres and the amusement park were all in disrepair, he said. But they had managed to fix up other parts of the resort and were ready for new guests, he said enthusiastically – that includes a number of the chalets, the beach and some of the smaller restaurants and shops.

More money is needed and may be some time in coming. “But our self-managed efforts have given us the inspiration to do more,” Taha told NIQASH. “It’s not perhaps quite as we would like it to be but we are moving forwards. We are bringing life back to this place.”

 

Entrance to the resort today.

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 Kamal al-Ayash.

The authorities are spending a lot of money on reconstruction in the Anbar province. But locals are complaining, saying basic needs are not being fulfilled and the rest is just window dressing.

When you arrive in the major Anbar cities of Fallujah or Ramadi, you would be forgiven for thinking that reconstruction is well under way. But if you head out of the city centres and check the residential neighbourhoods you will see disconnected power lines and broken water pipes, as well as those who live here working outdoors, trying to fix such things.

Many Anbar locals, who were displaced by the extremist group known as the Islamic State, have now returned to their homes.

“In January 2018, for the first time in more than three years, there were more returnees than internally displaced people,” the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration reported recently. Thanks to improving conditions, Anbar province has seen the largest number of returnees in Iraq, the organization noted.

Many of those who returned say they came back because the Iraqi government told them there would be a swift return to normality and reconstruction. However many of the locals who have come back have found that although there is reconstruction, the authorities undertaking it seem to have some misplaced priorities and that they must provide for themselves, rather than wait for the government to fix things.

Ahmad Abdul-Hamid, 43, has just finished fixing up his barber shop in Fallujah. He was ready to open again but found he could not get to his premises because the municipal authorities were removing and replacing the sidewalks. This kind of work is impressive and shows that the authorities care about the citizens, Abdul-Hamid says, but their timing was off. They should ask the people here what they need and want, and prioritize that, he argues.

“The sidewalks that are being removed and replaced have no real impact on our lives. It wouldn’t have mattered if they had not been reconstructed for years,” Abdul-Hamid said, adding that he would have preferred to see the water and sewage networks fixed first, because these are things that actually endanger people’s lives.

“The money seems to be being spent in an unplanned, uncoordinated way,” Abdul-Hamid complains. “It should be used to compensate those who are still living in tents, in the middle of the rubble that was once their home.”

Locals say it is true that dozens of reconstruction projects have been completed. But they believe that at least some of these have been finished at the expense of their own basic needs.

Another Fallujah local, Jihad al-Dulaimi, 44, tells NIQASH that when he asked the city council for new wiring for power cables so he could fix his own electricity supply, he was told that there was no budget for this. Al-Dulaimi was angry and replied that they had somehow got enough funds to renovate their own council offices.

“Working in this way, the government is disregarding the real needs of the people here,” he says. “We don’t want to see huge sums spent on projects that are clearly not urgent and which could be postponed.”

Al-Dulaimi also questioned why efforts were being made to build a new park when bridges were still damaged and new sidewalks painted, when the streets were impassable.

Many Fallujah residents share that opinion. They believe that officials are embarking on easy-to-complete projects that make them look good, just in time for federal elections in May.

It’s not that we are not appreciative, says Mahdi al-Halbusi, a 51-year-old living in Ramadi, but “it feels like the authorities are decorating the outside of a house, in which nobody can live because the insides are so damaged”.

He and his family returned to Ramadi over a year ago and he feels as though a lot of the completed projects have just been attempts at image making. “Nothing has really changed, the situation is still tragic, since we returned,” he says.

Al-Halbusi says he likes walking around some areas, where there are new, coloured pavements and where the government offices and other nearby buildings look so nice. But that feeling gives way to dismay as soon as he enters any of the residential areas.

“I used to think my mother was the only person who would prepare the house for visitors by putting away our everyday things and bringing out the best,” he jokes. “After the visitors left, we would go back to normal, with everything back in its usual place. That is exactly what it feels like in this city now.”

UNMAS Iraq ‘Clearance Mission’ Seen as ‘Tipping Point’ Between Past Conflict and a Normal Future

Lives and livelihoods in Iraq’s liberated areas are being restored at long last.

In Fallujah, as many as 1,800 vehicles and 100 pedestrians per hour can cross the re-opened ‘new bridge’ linking Baghdad with Al-Anbar Province. The fibre optic cable connecting more than 3,000 customers with Baghdad has been restored. The Jadidah fuel station, which had been closed for three years, now pumps an average of more than 31,000 litres for 300 vehicles per day.

In Mosul, the Al Qaysoor Water Treatment Plant has resumed providing clean and safe water to more than 300,000 customers across 34 service areas. The High Court can access deeds to validate land claims of residents returning to Ninewa Province. Valuable medical equipment, removed for safekeeping, awaits rehabilitation of a hospital in Mosul.

None of this progress would have been possible without infrastructure first being cleared of the explosive threats posed by debris of past conflicts and devices left by retreating ISIL forces, thus allowing the Government of Iraq, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the International Community to carry out the necessary rehabilitation work.

“We had almost lost all hope,” said Mr. Ali, manager of the Jadidah fuel station, speaking for its 20 employees. “We expected that the station would be blown up,” and it might well have been. United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS)-directed teams safely removed 34 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) weighing a total of 435 kg from the station premises. “You (UNMAS) gave us our jobs back,” he said.

“We eliminate threats along roads, under bridges, from power and water plants, from schools, from critical infrastructure, so that those displaced by conflict can return to their homes, begin again to work, to educate their children, to contribute to society, to live a normal life,” said Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager, prior to the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq.

Lodhammar says conference outcomes will help UNMAS to set priorities working in collaboration with the Government and other agencies supporting Iraq’s reconstruction. All infrastructure is important, but the sequencing of clearance missions itself is complex and the UNMAS top priority, Lodhammar says. “What comes first on our list in turn affects all other rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts ‘downstream’,” he says. “So, we always begin with a joint-assessment to establish our priorities.”

He cites the current UNMAS work to clear Fallujah’s power grid serving two areas outside of the city. As of December 2017, UNMAS-directed teams had searched nearly 34 km² along power lines and cleared 580 explosive devices. When the UNMAS work finishes, repair crews can begin restoring power to as many as 60,000 people and seven schools.

UNMAS-directed partners working at the community level, village level, even the ‘well level’ make a difference on a daily basis, Lodhammar says.

In Al Bokald, villagers spoke of the ground as their enemy. “We could not walk for fear that something would explode in our faces,” said one. Today, with explosive devices cleared, 20 families again have access to a well and water for their own needs and to grow their crops.

The story confirms for Lodhammar the need, primacy and urgency of the clearance mission as shared by all agencies engaged in Iraq’s reconstruction. “We have to do our job, safely, quickly and well so others can do theirs.”

In 2018, the mine action sector requires 216 million USD to respond to the rehabilitation efforts of retaken areas and critical needs in access to basic and municipal services, education and health of returning civilians. In the Reconstruction and Development Framework (RDF) presented at the Kuwait Conference, the Government of Iraq will prioritize the clearance of explosive hazards to enable the reconstruction of Iraq and support of accountable governance, reconciliation and peace building, social and human development and economic development.

(Source: UNAMI)

By John Lee.

Iraq’s National Investment Commission (NIC) has included six industrial projects in its list of major strategic projects to be presented during the Kuwait International Conference for Iraq Reconstruction, to be held in Kuwait from 12th to 14th February:

A. Rehabilitation and development of white cement plants in Falluja.

  • Area: 642000m²
  • Production capacity: 290000 ton/year for the two lines. Production capacity can be increased to 350000 t/y
  • Cost for Rehabilitating and operating is $12.800.000
  • Experienced staff is available to operate the plant
  • The plant (which is the only one in Iraq that produces white cement) is not working at the present time. Cement plants in Kubaisa, Qaim, in Anbarand Badoosh, Sinjar, HamamAl Alilin Mosul are going through damage assessment by special committees (for the damages that occurred during 2014-2017).

B. Rehabilitation and development of glass plants in Ramadi

  • Multipurpose raw glass (13 type of glass), such as glass for buildings, automobile and mirrors
  • Iraq’s need for float glass is doubling annually. The current estimate of 1500 t/d covers the local market. The unique location of the plant is suitable for exporting this product to the neighboring countries as raw or final product.
  • Target production capacity: 500000 t/y to be divided into two phases according to market capacity and required types.
  • Annual production cost in full capacity to produce 700 t/d is around 94 b ID.
  • Return 16%
  • It is possible to establish a float glass plant in Karbala and Muthana provinces.

C. Rehabilitation and development of engineering plants in the Ministry of Industry and Minerals such as Al Nassir and Al SimoodCo., IbnMajid, The Heavy engineering equipment Co. (Ministry of Oil) and The Mechanical industries in Eskandariyato cover the needs of the oil & gas, electricity and heavy industries sectors for tanks, heat exchangers, valves, pipes, pumps, poles and cranes and other products the rehabilitation and development of these factories require new production lines as well as supporting infrastructure.

D. Caustic Soda project/ Chlorine/ Samawa/ which includes the production of caustic soda, chlorine, Hypochlorite and Hydrochloric Acid.

  • Area: 50 dunam
  • Production capacity: 40-50 ton/per day
  • Cost : 40 Million Dollars.

E. Sodium Carbonate project/Samawa/ produces Sodium Carbonate and Bicarbonate.

  • Area: 100 dunam
  • Production capacity: 50000 t/y
  • Cost : 50-60 Million Dollars.

F. Sodium Sulfate projects/Samawa

  • Area: 25 dunam
  • Production capacity: 10 ton/per day
  • Cost : 20 Million Dollars.

The full 46-page document can be downloaded here.

(Source: NIC)