By John Lee.

Texas-based Alliant Techsystems Inc., has been awarded a $14,173,202 contract for contractor logistic support for the Iraqi Air Force’s Cessna 208B fleet.

The work will be performed in Iraq and is expected to be complete by 31st December, 2015.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

(Picture: Iraqi Air Force Cessna 208)

By John Lee.

Iraq has ranked 112th out of 158 countries in the latest World Happiness Report.

The report, produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), contains analysis from leading experts in the fields of economics, neuroscience, national statistics, and describes how measurements of subjective well-being can be used effectively to assess national progress.

The report is edited by Professor John F. Helliwell, of the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; Professor Richard Layard, Director of the Well-Being Programme at LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance; and Professor Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute and SDSN.

Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University, said:

“This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being. It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health. The evidence here will be useful to all countries as they pursue the new Sustainable Development Goals.”

Top of the list of happiest countries were:

  1. Switzerland
  2. Iceland
  3. Denmark
  4. Norway
  5. Canada

… while at the bottom were:

  1. Rwanda
  2. Benin
  3. Syria
  4. Burundi
  5. Togo

The full report can be downloaded here.

(Source: World Happiness Report)

Celebrating World Press Freedom in Baghdad, UNESCO and the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate (IJS) agreed to strengthen their cooperation to foster freedom of expression, develop the media sector and provide universal access to information and knowledge in Iraq.

To this effect, IJS President Moaiyad al-Lami and UNESCO Representative to Iraq Axel Plathe (pictured) signed an agreement on behalf of their organizations during an event that IJS and UNESCO organized this morning on the occasion of the Day at Iraqi Journalists Syndicate’s headquarters, in the presence of scores of journalists, human rights activists and members of the international community.

The agreement that we signed today is a very solid basis to jointly foster the role of media for national reconciliation and increase the safety of journalists”, says Axel Plathe.

Since 2003, approximately 400 journalists have lost their lives in Iraq, this number is the highest in the world,” stated IJS President Moaiyad al-Lami, urging the government and state institutions to investigate and find out who the perpetrators are.

He also underscored that press freedom can only be achieved through an independent media environment based on pluralism, one that they will continue to strive for to ensure the safety of journalists.

The agreement comes in light of the worsening security situation in Iraq which has drastically limited the media’s capacity to report safely and in a non-partisan manner.

As a first concrete action, the agreement foresees the implementation of the project “Enhancing Iraqi journalists’ capacities in conflict sensitive reporting”, that will ensure that the standards of reporting are up to par with internationally recognized standards.

By John Lee.

The Government of Canada has said it is committed to supporting Iraq in addressing the development challenges that it faces as a result of the barbaric and murderous rampage of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, ISIL, IS).

To this end, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, pictured here on his recent visit to Iraq, announced the following initiatives, for a total of $26.59 million, to further address Iraq’s stabilization and development needs and enhance bilateral relations between our two countries:

Development

Building Community Resilience in Communities Most Affected by the Influx of Internally-displaced Persons
Government support: $5 million (2015-2016)

This project will support the rehabilitation of infrastructure, help improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene services, and help increase community social cohesion related to basic service delivery.

Building Resilience and Coping Capacity among Conflict-Affected and Hosting Communities in Iraq

Government support: $4.34 million (2014-2015)

This project will support community-based rehabilitation of schools, as well as help provide water, sanitation and hygiene services, psychosocial support and child protection services.

Dohuk Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Resilience Response
Government support: $3.85 million (2015-2016)

This project will support the rehabilitation of infrastructure and help provide access to water, sanitation and hygiene services, as well as help enhance the capacity of the Ministry of Water Resources to deliver services in International Development Program hosting communities.

Programming Social Cohesion through Community Support Projects
Government support: $3.7 million (2014-2015)

This project will support communities to identify and deliver projects to address education, health and municipal service delivery needs.

WesternZagros Resources has provided an operational update for its Garmian Block in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and a corporate update.

Hasira-1 Well

The Hasira-1 well is in the process of being suspended after conducting a cased-hole testing program in the high pressure Mio-Oligocene oil reservoir.

During this test the wellbore experienced a considerable influx of reservoir formation debris and this resulted in the termination of the test before a definitive oil flow was possible.

We feel it is prudent to suspend the well and take the time to re-evaluate the situation before deciding on next steps in this challenging well,” said Simon Hatfield, CEO of WesternZagros.

Sarqala-1 Production Guidance

Light oil production and sales commenced at the Sarqala-1 well on February 11, 2015. WesternZagros has, in accordance with the Kurdistan Regional Government, supplied this production to the domestic market under pre-paid contracts. Sales volumes are currently constrained by domestic market limitations with daily production ranging up to 8,000 barrels of oil per day.

Should this situation continue, the Company anticipates that average sales volumes from Sarqala-1 will be in the range of 5,700 to 6,700 barrels per day for the remainder of 2015. Based on these production rates and domestic oil prices in the range of US42 to US$52 per barrel, WesternZagros estimates 2015 production revenues of US$17 to US$25 million and operating income of US$12 to US$20 million, after field operating costs.

Corporate

The Company is pleased to announce that Tony Kraljic has been promoted to Senior Vice President, Finance. Greg Stevenson will be stepping down as WesternZagros’s Chief Financial Officer, to pursue other opportunities and has agreed to be available over the coming months to ensure an efficient transition. Mr. Kraljic is now the Company’s principal financial officer and assumes the responsibilities from Mr. Stevenson.

Tony Kraljic joined WesternZagros in August 2011 and was promoted to Vice President Business Development in April 2012. He brings with him over 16 years of finance, accounting, and taxation experience. Prior to joining WesternZagros, Mr. Kraljic held increasingly senior positions with Arthur Anderson LLP, Shell Canada, Western Oil Sands and CEDA International Corp, where he was Vice President Finance.

Mr. Kraljic holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of British Columbia and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta.

Tony is an excellent choice to assume the role of Senior Vice President, Finance. Tony is a competent and qualified Chartered Accountant with industry experience and has served WesternZagros well over the past four years. The combination of Tony’s proven abilities and his deep understanding of our business make this a very natural step forward for him, the Company, and our shareholders,” said Simon Hatfield (pictured), WesternZagros’s Chief Executive Officer.

We are grateful to Greg for his many years of service to WesternZagros and for this smooth transition. He has built a strong financial team at the company and has demonstrated strong leadership skills during his time with us. During his time as CFO, Greg was responsible for raising over $500 million in debt and equity financings on behalf of the Company. Greg will be missed and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours,” said Mr. Hatfield.

(Source: WesternZagros)

The financial losses being made by Iraq’s state owned enterprises are “not acceptable” and the Government is pushing through new legislation to prioritise the growth of the private sector, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff told a high-level business conference in Baghdad last week.

Speaking at the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) event in the Iraqi Capital, Dr Mehdi Al Alak said the move was vital for the country.

We are trying to move away from theories and bring a more practical approach to encourage and grow the private sector. This needs some legislation to be abolished and new laws to be created, but it is now a priority for my government and it cannot be delayed,” explained Mr Alak.

The man charged by the government with helping push through the reforms, Dr Hussein Anbaki, said they were now examining 176 state owned enterprises to see how they could be transferred from state control to private enterprise.

Dr Anbaki, the Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee, told the audience of senior Iraqi and UK business leaders that the government would no longer allow public enterprises to continue to operate if they are losing money.

“As well as making a profit, they must create jobs. To do this there will be certain challenges, for example the lack and regularity of power supply, infrastructure, and bureaucracy. The boards of these organisations should be in charge, but unfortunately we see the ministries in control which makes the whole thing more bureaucratic,” explained Dr Anbaki.

Bishr Baker, the managing partner for E&Y in Jordan and Iraq, said since 2003 publicly-owned companies in Iraq had taken $11 billion of government money but had made no profit.

Over-employment in these companies ranges from 30% to 50% so you can imagine that when they come to be transferred into private ownership this will cause social issues with unemployment. They will need state benefits and training to find new jobs. It will be very difficult but the government must provide an essential safety net,” added Mr Baker.

Standard Chartered’s acting CEO in Iraq, Mohammed Al Delaimy, explained to the conference the steps needed to change a state-driven economy to the private sector. It was imperative to have the proper legislation in place for both the government and the private institutions – this was to protect the local product and also consumer rights.

Mr Delaimy said a full review of business practices was also necessary. “We need to ask ourselves if we have the right infrastructure. Do we have an adequate pool for skills and talented people? This is helpful for deciding why and when the next industry is privatised. We can also find out what kind of human resources are needed,” he explained.

Later in the day, the former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, now Minister for Higher Education, Dr Hussain Al Shahristani, called for British Universities and other international educational institutions to open branches in Iraq.

We have 651,000 students currently studying for degrees, 42% of which are women. We have 40,000 instructors and teachers. 17.3% of students are aged between 18 and 23 and we’d like to increase this to 25% but unfortunately the lack of capacity of our universities hinders this position,” Dr Shahristani pointed out.

We have the funds – around $3000 for each student – which can’t compare to Europe or the States but I believe are amongst the highest in the Middle East. We want more connection between universities in the UK and abroad and perhaps they would take into consideration opening branches here in Iraq? Under the former regime this was not possible, but we have now sent a draft law to Parliament to enable this to happen,” he added.

The European Union’s Ambassador to Iraq, Jana Hybaskova, said they had decided to invest in Iraq, not because it was rich in oil and gas, but rich in its people and its population.

Ms Hybaskova said the EU was spending six million Euros to help provide technical support for Iraqi educational establishments. Through UNESCO they were also investing a further 12 million Euros in reforming vocational training. “We want to enhance the skills of the Iraqi people, not only to combat terrorism, but to use computers, mobile phones, to learn about modern technology based on the needs of the private sector.

The IBBC Executive Chairman, Baroness Nicholson, reaffirmed the organisation’s strong support for developing the educational sector in Iraq. She suggested IBBC member companies could play a big role in developing the country’s educational requirements.

“Iraq needs to expand its colleges and universities and to develop apprenticeship schemes. Maybe that would be the way IBBC companies could help the most? All run training schemes of their own and I believe there is a huge amount they could and would do.”

The Baroness thanked the Iraqi Federation of Chambers of Commerce and the National Investment Commission (NIC) for co-hosting the event. She particularly praised the Baghdad Chamber for their invaluable support. She said the organisation had done “an incredible” job to bring the cream of Iraqi and UK business together with leading politicians for the conference.

A spokesman for the Baghdad Chamber of Commerce said today: “We were determined to make this event very special and we are proud to say that it was. We had two days of incredible constructive debate which will benefit not only Iraqi and international business but the Iraqi people as well.

(Source: IBBC)

By John Lee.

As part of its Q1 2015 Report, Dana Gas has given the following update on its operations in Iraqi Kurdistan:

In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the Company saw its quarterly share of production (40%) in the Khor Mor Field marginally increase by 3.7% to 30,400 boepd (Q1 2014: 29,300 boepd) while LPG sales doubled year-on-year.

The LPG plant is producing at near capacity having returned from suspension in July 2014 and sales have increased substantially as a result.

The Company continues to sell its liquid hydrocarbon products domestically.

(Source: Dana Gas)

Ammar Al Shahbander, long-standing Chief of Mission in Iraq for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR), has been killed in a car bomb attack in the busy commercial area of Karrada in Baghdad.

It is believed that up to 17 people were killed in twin bomb blasts in the area. Emad al-Sharaa, also with IWPR in Baghdad, was wounded, and remains in serious but stable condition.

Ammar’s death is a tragedy for his beautiful family and a profound shock for all of us at IWPR,” said IWPR Executive Director Anthony Borden.

“He was devoted to helping build a new and peaceful Iraq, and he was one of the most informed, creative and passionate members of the civil society community there –hugely respected by government officials, Western diplomats and the international press, and loved by his colleagues. His loss is a major blow to Iraq, and to us all.”

Al Shahbander, age 41, a native of Iraq with Swedish nationality, started working for IWPR in Iraq in 2005, and became Chief of Party in 2008 and Chief of Mission in 2009. He previously worked with the Iraq Foundation. He leaves a wife and four children.

(Source: IWPR)

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

Souk al-Shorja is Baghdad’s oldest market. It was established in the late Abbasid period about A.D. 750 and was first called Souk al-Rayahin then Souk al-Attarin. It is part of the historic area that includes the Abbasid palace on the Tigris River and the Khulafa mosque on al-Jumhuriya Street. “Shorja” means “salty water” in Arabic, and there was once a well where the market is now.

This market has remained throughout this period and later, and preserved the style of its shops, stores and squares that still swarm with shoppers and merchants.

Modern shopping malls in the Iraqi capital cannot compete with Shorja. It consists of a series of overlapping souks that preserved their traditional and popular character. It offers food and conventional household goods and more specialized items for religious occasions and holidays. Traditional spice dealers sell all kinds of spices, sugar, tea, grains and sweets.

There are several ways in to the market. Al-Monitor used the Rashid Street entrance, the narrow alleyways no more than three or four meters (10 or 13 feet) wide. Some of them are part of the market, which still preserves its old structure and has not seen any radical changes over the decades.

The activities in this market are not limited to wholesale and retail activities, but include various other transactions and importing and exporting business. It bustles with traders, shopkeepers, street vendors, shoppers, industrialists, brokers, owners of shipping companies and observers.

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

Souk al-Shorja is Baghdad’s oldest market. It was established in the late Abbasid period about A.D. 750 and was first called Souk al-Rayahin then Souk al-Attarin. It is part of the historic area that includes the Abbasid palace on the Tigris River and the Khulafa mosque on al-Jumhuriya Street. “Shorja” means “salty water” in Arabic, and there was once a well where the market is now.

This market has remained throughout this period and later, and preserved the style of its shops, stores and squares that still swarm with shoppers and merchants.

Modern shopping malls in the Iraqi capital cannot compete with Shorja. It consists of a series of overlapping souks that preserved their traditional and popular character. It offers food and conventional household goods and more specialized items for religious occasions and holidays. Traditional spice dealers sell all kinds of spices, sugar, tea, grains and sweets.

There are several ways in to the market. Al-Monitor used the Rashid Street entrance, the narrow alleyways no more than three or four meters (10 or 13 feet) wide. Some of them are part of the market, which still preserves its old structure and has not seen any radical changes over the decades.

The activities in this market are not limited to wholesale and retail activities, but include various other transactions and importing and exporting business. It bustles with traders, shopkeepers, street vendors, shoppers, industrialists, brokers, owners of shipping companies and observers.