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

Mohammad Hassan worries about the steady decline in the number of customers who come to his shop in Baghdad’s Souk al-Safafeer, the legendary copper market in the neighborhood of Bab al-Agha. The shop sports Hassan’s handmade copper products, mostly miniatures of Iraq’s symbols and monuments, such as the palm tree, the Lion of Babylon, the Malwiya Minaret in Samarra and Mosul’s Great Mosque of al-Nuri, which the Islamic State destroyed in 2017.

Hassan, who has been a coppersmith for 30 years, exercises a profession that dates to the Abbasid period of the 10th century, when many everyday goods, from lanterns to water bottles and from cups to knives and daggers, were made of copper. But those days are long gone.

“Industrial development has turned this profession into a business that only provides decorative objects,” Hassan told Al-Monitor in his shop in Souk al-Safafeer, which takes its name from the color of copper, “safra” in Arabic.

The situation is similar in all coppersmiths’ markets around the country. In Nasiriyah, a city on the banks of the Euphrates River about 370 kilometers (225 miles) southeast of Baghdad, the copper market, once an important place of commerce and socialization, is now almost nonexistent. The same goes for Mosul’s market, Basra’s Musa al-Attiyah market and Najaf’s Safafeer market, which are turning into mere memories.

Coppersmith Haider Khafaji told Al-Monitor that the famous Safafeer market in the southern province of Babil has now faded behind the modern shops, but in the past it was packed with tourists who would head there after visiting the nearby historic city of Babylon about 20 kilometers (12 miles) away.

Khafaji said, “I started working in this profession 40 years ago, back when there was significant demand for copperware, when copper was an important commercial commodity and copper goods were a sign of status.” He added that there are just a few coppersmith shops left and most double now as blacksmiths.

“Our work today is limited to making gifts and souvenirs that hardly ever get sold,” Khafaji added. “We seriously fear that this craft will disappear, as the new generation is not keen to learn the craft.”

Member of parliament Maysoon al-Damluji, a member of the legislature’s committee on culture, told Al-Monitor that the days when people used copper in most of their daily goods are gone, but that the craft of the coppersmiths, part of the Iraqi intangible heritage, should be maintained.

“[The coppersmith shops and markets are part of] the identity of Iraqi cities,” he said, expressing concern that Iraq’s cities, which have been badly damaged in the wars and battles that have taken place in Iraq and have been subject to poor urban planning, have lost their historical heritage.

Damluji said one of the reasons copper markets are disappearing is the “law issued by the Ministry of Health in the 1950s preventing the use of copper utensils for eating, as it causes poisoning.”

Another reason, according to Damluji, is related to “the unstable security and political situation in Iraq, as the Iraqi state has allocated its budget for wars since the 1990s, leaving no room for projects to preserve cultural heritage.”

Ibrahim Khalil al-Alaf, professor of modern history at the University of Mosul, told Al-Monitor that the craft was also disappearing because local and handmade goods were unable to hold their ground against foreign copper miniatures of Iraqi monuments that flood the markets and are sold at lower prices. These come from China and the government has no regulation or subsidies to protect the local products. “The Safafeer market in Mosul has been in steady decline,” he added.

In many Safafeer markets, coppersmiths themselves have begun trading in imported goods, no longer relying on creating their own. Given the lack of financial support from the government for this dying profession and the reluctance of the new generation to master this craft in which profits are low, coppersmiths are becoming a part of disappearing intangible heritage.

Alaf said he deeply regrets how Mosul’s heritage has been falling apart before his eyes. “We need to preserve historical monuments using modern restoration techniques and learning from the experience of developed countries in urban and market planning,” he said.

“The Directorate of Heritage and Antiquities should develop a comprehensive national strategy and cooperate with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization because the Safafeer market in every city is not only a market but a museum preserving this profession and all Iraqi handicrafts,” Alaf said.

Meanwhile, Amran Obeidi, the director of media and spokesman at the Ministry of Culture, told Al-Monitor that the ministry believes preserving Baghdad’s Safafeer market, the largest of the copper markets in the country, does not fall under its responsibilities according to laws and regulations in force. “Maintaining the Safafeer market is Baghdad municipality’s job. Our work in the ministry is only limited to technical consulting,” he said. “The Safafeer markets are Iraq’s cultural introduction to the world, as well as they showcase a now rare profession that has long been part of the Iraqi folklore.”

Obeidi said the ministry classified Rashid Street, at the end of which the Safafeer market in Baghdad is located, as a historical area, so any change in buildings there requires the ministry’s approval. “It is particularly important to preserve this market because it specializes in creating cultural handicrafts,” he said.

Hakim Abdul Zahra, the director of media and public relations in the Baghdad municipality, told Al-Monitor that the city is trying to ensure that the old markets do not disappear. Some store owners try to reconstruct the historical stores and turn them into another business, which is illegal. “We have plans, in coordination with the Heritage Authority, to repair and restore houses and ancient markets as soon as our financial situation improves,” Zahra said.

(Picture credit: Jonathan Zander)

Creating Alternative Livelihoods for Farming Families in Iraq

In 2017, conflict in Iraq caused new displacements, while other people returned home as areas became safe. At the end of 2017, 2.6 million people remained displaced, and 3.2 million people had returned home since January 2014.

FAO worked with affected communities, focusing on elderly people, people with a disability and families headed by women, to increase access to fresh foods, boost incomes and build skills. Activities both immediately and sustainably improved food security, nutrition, income generation and livelihoods.

FAO supported 2 400 people from 150 villages with backyard poultry production – distributing hens, poultry feeding and drinking equipment, and feed. This enabled each family to produce eggs and poultry meat for their own consumption and for sale.

Further support was provided to conflict-affected families in the form of training, tools and equipment for bee-keeping for honey production, and dairy and fruit processing.

FAO’s cash-for-work programmes provided a valuable source of employment as vulnerable people were paid to clear debris along Ninewa governorate’s Al Jazeera irrigation canals.

The canals provide irrigation water to 250 000 ha of farmland. Cash-for-work programmes were also organized in Kirkuk, Anbar and Salah al Din governorates.

In Ninewa governorate, FAO supported livestock-producing families with animal feed, and commenced an animal health campaign to vaccinate 1 million livestock.

(Source: FAO)

GardaWorld, a global leader in comprehensive security and risk management, has made its weekly security report available to Iraq Business News readers.

Prepared by GardaWorld’s Risk Analysis Team in Iraq, this essential report includes short- and medium-term outlooks on the security situation, reports and commentary on recent significant events, and a detailed overview of developments across the country.

Please click here to download the latest report free of charge.

For more information on how GardaWorld’s services can support your business in Iraq, please contact Daniel Matthews, Senior Director Iraq, at

By John Lee.

The Iraqi government has freportedly revoked a contract with a Kurdish-owned garbage removal firm in Kirkuk, resulting in a garbage crisis in the oil-rich province.

The owner of the business, Khalid Shinke, told Kurdistan 24 that the Iraqi government canceled the contract with his company on 28th February, leading to the suspension of garbage collection across Kirkuk.

He added that the central government in Baghdad still owes his company 12 billion IQD.

(Source: Kurdistan24)

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 Hayman Hassan.

The Iraqi Kurdish authorities owe many state employees months in back pay. The citizens of Iraqi Kurdistan owe the government a variety of fees. But right now, it seems nobody is getting anything.

In the semi-autonomous, northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan, there are a lot of debts to be paid – and everybody owes somebody money.

One of the most pressing issues is that of the partial payment of salaries to those employed by the government. Iraqi Kurdish teachers have recently been protesting about this again, causing the closure of some local schools, and other state employees have done so in the past.

As a result of its financial problems – caused, partially by the security crisis, a fall in oil prices and ongoing wrangling about their share of the national budget – the government of Iraqi Kurdistan decided to “save” employees’ salaries in 2016. This means that a part of any employee’s salary was paid to them as usual and the other part was withheld, with a view to returning it later. It was a debt that the Iraqi Kurdish government owed to its people.

Earlier this month, the authorities decided again to set up a whole new department – the department of government debt – to deal with this issue. They had announced they would do this last year but nothing really happened.

The department should log all of the money that the Iraqi Kurdish government owed and also what was owed to them. The staff salary “savings” are meant to be part of this but it’s hard to know how the department could enforce any exchange of cash. As yet, there is no dedicated bank account to deal with this issue and nobody knows when repayments might happen.

“The Kurdish government should pay their people back around US$10 billion, and then another US$10 billion to other investors,” Ali Hama Salih, the deputy head of the Iraqi Kurdish parliament’s finance committee and a member of the anti-corruption Change movement, told NIQASH. “But it has no mechanism in place to pay anything back.”

“When the government’s revenues increase again, it is going to pay those debts,” says Safeen Dizayee, the spokesperson for the Iraqi Kurdish government and a member of the region’s biggest political party, the Kurdish Democratic Party.

Over the past four years, nobody has managed to figure out how to pay government employees back what they are owed. One of the ideas suggested by provincial councils late last year was that the government deduct the money they owe citizens from citizens’ bills for power and water and for other payments such as traffic fines.

“We’ve suggested this project two times now,” says Khanzad Younis, a member of the Erbil provincial council. “But the government refused, saying such a thing cannot be implemented right now. That is despite the fact that we outlined all of the specific things the government and citizens should do to have these debts repaid.”

The Kurdish government told the council members that it would all take too long and that too much information was required, that nobody had. It also requires all employees to have bank accounts, which they do not. Additionally, the government still only has enough money to pay the proportion of salaries it is liable for.

Another proposal says that a bank account should be opened, and all of the savings should be deposited in there eventually. This would be impossible currently and anyway, the ministry of finance has all of the details of what is owed. Still, the idea was thought to be a symbolic step in the right direction. However, this has not happened either.

And there is an added complication. In November 2017, the government waived some payments that local tax payers were supposed to make to it. This includes some payments for water and power, marriage license fees and loans for housing, saying that those who had been impacted badly by the fight against the extremist group known as the Islamic State should not have to pay these.

The debt that locals owe the Kurdish government apparently totals around IQD3 billion (around US$2 million) and is slowly being paid back via small monthly instalments, Dizayee explains. But this is nothing when compared to the larger amount of back pay owed to employees.

“Given that the government is the executive authority in Iraqi Kurdistan it could issue new laws that allow it to collect those debts from citizens faster,” speculates Khalid Hayder, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan. “As for what the government owes its citizens, it is under pressure to pay that money back at some stage. If it doesn’t this creates a serious lack of trust and endangers the whole region’s economic future.”

Right now, it seems the Kurdish government is waiting for the federal authorities in Baghdad to pay them their share of the federal budget. But, he adds, when it comes, that is most likely to be used to pay the outgoing salaries of citizens and not the debts.

The Iraqi government passed its 2018 budget earlier this month, and although wrangling continues as to whether it is actually workable, one thing does appear to have been made clear: The percentage of the income that the Kurds get has dropped. Politicians have already warned that they won’t be getting enough to pay back the debts they owe their own employees and voters. The debtors’ standoff looks likely to continue.

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

Eight months after US-backed forces drove ISIL from Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul, unexploded bombs, mortars and other explosives still litter the streets.

The UN says most of them are buried under an estimated 11 tonnes of destroyed buildings.

It warns removing them all could take “many years”.

Al Jazeera‘s Imtiaz Tyab reports:


By John Lee.

Malaysia-based Wah Seong Corporation Berhad (WSC) has announced that its indirect wholly-owned subsidiary Wasco Engineering International Ltd (WEIL) has been awarded a contract by Basrah Gas Company (BGC) for the design, packaging and sale of gas compressor packages and associated plant and site facilities.

The contract is valued at $34.6 million.

The scope of work of the contract involves provision of gas compressors and process equipment such as tri-ethylene glycol (TEG) unit, fuel gas conditioning skid, pipe racks, slug catcher, knock out drum, vent stack, site facilities such as office and workshop containers, lighting, safety equipment, fire and gas detectors, power generators and air compressors.

The activities undertaken will include engineering, detail design, procurement and packaging of the above process equipment. The activity is expected to commence in March 2018, and to be completed by end of 2018.

The contract is for the provision of engineering, design, supply and fabrication services which are within the business scope of the Engineering Division of the WSC Group and the risks are the normal operational risks associated with the said business. The WSC Group has previously supplied similar packages to the same customer in Iraq.

The contract is expected to contribute positively to the earnings of WSC Group over the contract period. The contract is project specific and is not renewable.

(Source: WSC)

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraq:

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraqi Kurdistan:

(Source: UN)

DNO ASA, the Norwegian oil and gas operator, today released its 2017 Annual Report and Accounts together with its 2017 Annual Statement of Reserves and Resources and reported improvements across key financial and operational metrics.

Annual 2017 revenues climbed to USD 347 million, up 72 percent from year earlier levels. Operating profit totaled USD 521 million, up from USD 6 million in 2016, with the recognition as other income of USD 556 million under the August 2017 Kurdistan Receivables Settlement Agreement.

Excluding the settlement agreement and non-cash impairments, operating profit in 2017 more than doubled to USD 72 million. And notwithstanding a doubling of operational spend to USD 259 million, the Company ended the year with a cash balance of USD 430 million.

Company Working Interest (CWI) production increased to 73,700 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) from 69,200 boepd in 2016 (operated production in 2017 was 113,500 boepd, up from 112,600 boepd in 2016). Lifting costs last year averaged USD 3.6 per barrel of oil equivalent.

Iraqi Kurdistan

DNO’s production continues to be driven by the Tawke field in Kurdistan, where output in 2017 averaged 105,500 barrels of oil per day (bopd).

The adjacent Peshkabir field, brought on stream midyear, contributed another 3,600 bopd to bring total Tawke license production to 109,100 bopd in 2017. The Company plans to bolster production from the license with 10 new wells in 2018.

We are committed this year to continue to outdrill, outproduce and outperform all other international companies in Kurdistan – combined,” said DNO’s Executive Chairman Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani.

At yearend 2017, DNO’s CWI 1P reserves climbed to 240 million barrels of oil equivalent (MMboe) from 219 MMboe at yearend 2016, after adjusting for production during the year, technical revisions and an increase in DNO’s operated stake in the Tawke license from 55 percent to 75 percent.

On a 2P basis, DNO’s CWI reserves stood at 384 MMboe (up from 368 MMboe) and on a 3P basis, DNO’s CWI reserves stood at 666 MMboe (up from 521 MMboe). DNO’s yearend 2017 CWI contingent resources (2C) were estimated at 99 MMboe, down from 161 MMboe at yearend 2016, following reclassification of certain contingent resources to reserves.

On a gross basis, at yearend 2017, 1P reserves at the Tawke license containing the Tawke and Peshkabir fields totaled 348 MMboe (353 MMboe at yearend 2016) after adjusting for production of 40 MMboe during the year and technical revisions; 2P reserves totaled 513 MMboe (536 MMboe at yearend 2016); 3P reserves totaled 880 MMboe (725 MMboe at yearend 2016) and 2C resources totaled 91 MMboe (211 MMboe at yearend 2016) following reclassification.

International petroleum consultants DeGolyer and MacNaughton carried out the annual independent assessment of the Tawke and Peshkabir fields. DNO internally evaluated the remaining assets.

(Source: DNO)