By Al-Monitor staff. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq returns to lockdown after surge in coronavirus cases

By opening two border crossings with Iran and Iraq, Turkey is seeking to boost the economy, and many businesses resume operations in the country this week.

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(Picture Credit: Joaoleitao)

By John Lee.

On May 21, the Government of Iraq extended the suspension on scheduled flights to and from Iraq until 8:00 p.m. on May 31.

Qatar Airways is offering a special flight from Baghdad on May 26.  This flight is not organized by the Embassy.

(Source: U.S. Embassy Baghdad)

The Higher Committee for Health and National Safety held a meeting in Baghdad on Monday via video conferencing under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi.

The Committee reviewed and evaluated current measures to combat Covid-19 and received briefings from the Ministry of Health, specialists and officials from relevant ministries.

The Prime Minister commended the high degree of coordination between relevant government departments and the crisis cells across the country, which he said contributed to enabling Iraq to make progress in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Odd-even’ rule for vehicles:

The Higher Committee decided that, based on even and odd numbered license plates, vehicles will be allowed on roads and public highways on alternate days. This measure comes into force on Tuesday 05 May 2020.

Helping families to return home:

The Higher Committee discussed how to assist families who, because of curfew and restrictions on movements, have been unable to travel between Iraqi provinces to return to their home.

The Committee said it is considering easing some restrictions for one day only to enable these families to return to their home towns, adding that it will make an announcement on this issue soon.

Restarting Iraq’s cement plants:

The Higher Committee also discussed plans to restart Iraq’s cement manufacturing plants to meet the needs of the local market and to maintain price stability.

Stay at home:

The Higher Committee called on all Iraqis to continue to stay at home, to go out only when absolutely necessary, and to comply with physical distancing rules.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

By John Lee.

Intelyse, a Sicuro Group company, has said it has successfully repatriated over 150 Iraqi citizens to Baghdad in time for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in addition to repatriating more than 80 British and EU citizens from Iraq to UK.

The direct flight to Baghdad departed London Stanstead on 23 April 2020.

The previous day, another Intelyse charter flew from Basra to London Stansted via Zagreb, carrying British and EU citizens who were stranded in Iraq’s oilfields following the closure of all airports and cancellation of all scheduled flights due to coronavirus.

Both flights were arranged in cooperation with Empire Aviation.

Further repatriation flights are to be arranged depending on demand, the company said.

(Source: Sicuro)

By John Lee.

The coronavirus pandemic has reportedly led to thousands of new jobs to truck drivers in the Kurdistan Region.

According to a report from Rudaw, while the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan has been closed to tourists and truckers alike, freight is being transferred to local truck drivers to be delivered to destinations in the region.

More here.

(Source: Rudaw)

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)

By John Lee.

French container transportation and shipping company CMA CGM, has announced the first closing of its agreement with China Merchants Port (CMP), with the sale of its stakes in eight port terminals to Terminal Link. Among the facilities involved is the Umm Qasr Terminal in Iraq.

The Terminal Link joint venture was created in 2013 and is 51% owned by CMA CGM and 49% by CMP.

In line with the terms and conditions of the agreement announced on 20th December 2019 this first transaction represents a total all-cash consideration of USD 815 million. It will enable Terminal Link to expand its geographic footprint and global network, thereby enhancing its business development prospects.

This initial disposal includes the following terminals:

  • Odessa Terminal (Ukraine)
  • CMA CGM PSA Lion Terminal (CPLT), Singapore
  • Kingston Freeport Terminal (Jamaica)
  • Rotterdam World Gateway (Netherlands)
  • Qingdao Qianwan United Advance Container Terminal (China)
  • Vietnam International Container Terminal, Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)
  • Laem Chabang International Terminal (Thailand)
  • Umm Qasr Terminal (Iraq)

The sale of the last two terminals covered by the agreement between CMA CGM and CMP should be completed by the end of first-half 2020 for an all-cash consideration over USD 150 million, pending approval by the competent regulatory agencies.

With this transaction, CMA CGM is proceeding with the delivery of its USD 2.1 billion liquidity plan announced on 25th November 2019. This plan among others reduces CMA CGM consolidated debt by more than USD 1.3 billion by the end of first-half 2020 and allows to extend certain financing facilities maturing during the year.

The CMA CGM Group strengthens its balance sheet amidst the high uncertainty created by the global Covid-19 health crisis. While the crisis has had a limited impact in the first quarter of 2020, the Group expects a decline in volumes, particularly outbound to Europe and the United States.

On this occasion, Rodolphe Saadé, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the CMA CGM Group, states:

“This transaction, announced on the 20th of December 2019, is an important step in its 2.1 billion USD liquidity plan and will allow us to strengthen our balance sheet. Amid the high uncertainty created by the COVID-19 health crisis, the closing of this transaction as previously announced demonstrates the resilience of the CMA CGM Group.”

(Source: CMA CGM)

By John Lee.

Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT) has reported that its strategy to promote Aqaba as a gateway to Iraq and the wider Levant has delivered “a sharp increase in containers to Iraq (up 367% compared to previous year), and thus contributed to the positive results recorded for the past few months“.

The Founder and CEO of the Jordan-based Nile International Freight Services, Nasri Aqrabawi, said:

“We have found in ACT a true business partner which has supported us to develop the most efficient supply chain into Iraq.”

(Source: ACT)

An Iranian official denied the “fake” reports about the closure of the common border with Iraq, saying Iranian trucks are exporting commodities to the Arab country via all border crossings without any problem.

In an interview with Tasnim, chairman of the Iran-Iraq joint chamber of commerce, Yahya Al-e Eshaq, said Iranian trucks are exporting shipments to Iraq via the Tamarchin, Bashmagh, Khosravi, Parvizkhan, Shalamcheh and Chazzabeh border crossings on a daily basis and without any problem.

He added that there has been ups and downs in the land freight at the Mehran border crossing, but so far at least 800 trucks have entered Iraq from there. “At present, no Iranian export truck is stranded at this border crossing.”

Al-e Eshaq said the “fake and unreal” reports about closure of the Iran-Iraq border following the outbreak of the coronavirus are part of the attempts by the “enemies of Islamic Republic of Iran seeking to wage a psychological war”.

“It is natural for the US to do its utmost to isolate and lock Iran’s economy, but it will definitely fail (to do so),” he went on to say.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Hospitals and bridges: Major sites re-open in Ramadi highlighting city’s recovery

The Government of Iraq has re-opened two major infrastructure projects in Ramadi following their rehabilitation by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The re-opening of Ramadi Maternity Hospital and the Palestine Bridge marks a significant moment for the recovery of the city after years of ISIL occupation.

Ramadi Maternity Hospital is a large, 260 bed, modern medical facility – one that will provide over 400,000 women in Anbar with specialized maternity services. As the only such facility in Anbar, the hospital will serve women from areas as far away as Heet, Haditha, Anah, Rawa and Al Qaim.

UNDP carried out major work at the hospital, including the rehabilitation of operating theatres, labour wards, water and electrical systems and doctor’s accommodation.

UNDP’s Resident Representative in Iraq, Zena Ali Ahmad, said:

“Today marks an important day for Ramadi. After many difficult years, this great city is back on its feet. Access to healthcare is one of the foundations of strong societies, and UNDP is proud to be working to improve health services across the areas that suffered under ISIL with the support of our generous donors.”

The rehabilitation of the hospital was funded through a significant contribution by the Federal Republic of Germany, through KfW Development Bank.

KfW Country Director, Dr. Anna-Christine Janke, said:

“On behalf of the German Government KfW Development Bank is proud to finance a host of projects in Iraq. Projects range from the rehabilitation of basic and critical infrastructure including hospitals, electricity, roads and bridges, to support for small and medium enterprises and assistance to livelihoods.”

The nearby Palestine Bridge also suffered extensive damage during the battle to dislodge ISIL, and several of its parts were either partially damaged or completely destroyed. As the largest bridge in Anbar, it spans over 500m and measures three lanes wide on each side. The complex rehabilitation of the bridge was undertaken by UNDP, beginning in 2018.

Adds Ms. Ali Ahmad:

“Bridges don’t just connect roads; they connect people and communities. This bridge serves as critical passageway for residents of Ramadi and an integral gateway to Greater Anbar. UNDP’s commitment to restoring these vital pieces of infrastructure is clear, with 11 bridges across Anbar now completed.”

At the request of the Government of Iraq, UNDP established the Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) in June 2015 to facilitate the return of displaced Iraqis, lay the groundwork for reconstruction and recovery, and safeguard against the resurgence of violence.

Based on priorities identified by the Government of Iraq, FFS helps quickly repair essential public infrastructure, boosts the capacity of local government, provides short-term employment opportunities and helps to build cohesive communities.

To date, UNDP’s Funding Facility has completed more than 2,300 projects in key critical areas of Anbar, Salah al-Din, Diyala, Kirkuk and Ninewa.

(Source: UNDP)