The UAE has sent an aid plane carrying 10.5 metric tons of medical supplies to Iraq to bolster the country’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

This aid will assist approximately 10,500 medical professionals as they work to contain the virus.

Commenting on the aid delivery, Mohamad Saleh Altenaiji, Charge d’affaires of the UAE Embassy in Baghdad, said:

The UAE has contributed to supporting our Iraqi brothers for years and continues to provide all possible support in all areas, particularly the economic and developmental realms. The UAE is also keen to protect and preserve Iraq’s cultural heritage in the face of terrorist threats that have tried to destroy and maim it.

“In continuation of these efforts, the UAE’s wise leadership sent a medical aid plane today to support the efforts of health workers to deal with COVID-19, which comes in addition to the recent medical assistance sent to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.”

To date, the UAE has responded to the COVID-19 crisis by providing over 974 metric tons of aid to 68 countries, supporting more than 974,000 medical professionals in the process.

(Source: Govt of UAE)

By John Lee.

According to Bloomberg Law, a group of bondholders of Shamaran Petroleum has reportedly appointed restructuring specialists Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP to advise on ongoing debt talks.

ShaMaran Petroleum said last week that that it continues to examine alternatives to address a breach of financial covenant and liquidity shortfall, and that difficult discussions with its largest independent bondholders are continuing.

The Canadian company has a 27.6 percent direct interest in the Atrush Block production sharing contract in Iraqi Kurdistan.

More here (subscription required).

(Sources: Bloomberg Law, Shamaran)

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Wednesday chaired a cabinet meeting via video conference to discuss expenses and the need to adapt to the current budget while protecting public entitlements.

In the meeting attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, the Council of Ministers stressed continued commitment to reducing salaries of senior officials, including those retired with high pay brackets. These meetings will continue until next Sunday.

During the meeting, the Cabinet extended the deadline to pay public water and electricity bills with 15% discount until September 1, 2020.

The Council of Ministers also debated the ongoing disputes with the federal government and agreed that a delegation will return to Baghdad next week as part of continued efforts to reach an agreement within the framework of the Iraqi constitution.

(Source: KRG)

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani chaired a video conference meeting on Tuesday on notarisation of lands and residential housing projects.

In the meeting attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani and other cabinet ministers, Prime Minister Barzani spoke about separating land plots allocated for projects in a bid to resolve the issue of lands granted to people by municipalities, and the issue of residential apartments which will be notarised under the names of owners.

The meeting also discussed the subject of reorganising income from companies providing services at cities and villages in a way these services are affordable by people. They also stressed the importance of speeding up the procedures of compensating those whose lands fall within the map of cities.

They also reviewed the implementation of laws and instructions relating to ownership of residential lands which have been trespassed in light of the parliament law no. 3 of 2019, which concerns the notarisation of lands that are trespassed in a way that favours low-income people and prevents trespassing of public properties.

Cabinet ministers explained their perspectives on these issues and their suggestions were approved following an exchange of views on these questions.

(Source: KRG)

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani chaired a meeting via video conference on Monday on the state of Kurdistan Region’s customs, border crossings, and companies providing service.

In the meeting attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani and other ministers, the Prime Minister reaffirmed ongoing efforts to carry out financial reforms; organise trade, and review tax exemptions at all border crossings.

The meeting reviewed assessments from committees tasked with these areas as part of the reform agenda. The committee, headed by the Ministers of Interior and Finance, presented a detailed report on service contracts and challenges at the border crossings.

During the meeting, the Prime Minister underscored the cabinet’s priority to bring more certainty to the use of public wealth. He also noted the important role of the private sector and the need to promote local produce.

The meeting called for border crossings to be organised in accordance with international standards; stop illegal tax exemptions, and a review of all of service contracts.

(Source: KRG)

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani chairs meeting on combating new wave of Covid_19

KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Wednesday chaired a meeting with the government’s high-level committee on the coronavirus outbreak via video conference.

In the meeting attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, the Minister of Health presented a detailed report on the increasing number of infections and fatalities in the Kurdistan Region due to a recent surge in Covid_19 cases. The Minister of Interior then presented a report on government measures to enforce compliance with the government’s health advice.

Following an exchange of views on how to curb the spread of the disease, the government’s committee on coronavirus made the following decisions:

  1. First: The government’s public health guidance will continue, including quarantine and delivering services to the infected, contacts and tourists. The campaign to spread awareness on the disease and health advice will intensify too.
  2. Second: The committee also decided to make wearing a mask mandatory in public places and institutions. There will be a supply of masks at government institutions for people visiting these places. Violators will be held accountable to the law.
  3. Third: The government will allocate an additional 5 billion Iraqi dinars to fight the pandemic. Health institutions in all provinces and counties can benefit from these funds.
  4. Fourth: The government will facilitate the production of masks and other equipment to ensure high quality and affordable pricing.
  5. Fifth: The Ministry of Health is permitted to expand laboratory services and set necessary mechanisms to diagnose and identify virus patients Ministry teams will continue contact tracing and tracking suspect cases.
  6. Sixth: The Ministries of Health and Interior along with the Department of Foreign Relations were assigned to contact and visit relevant departments in the Iraqi government and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region as well as consulates and international organisations to seek assistance for the fight against the virus.
  7. Seventh: The travel ban between provinces in the Kurdistan Region and between the Kurdistan Region and Iraqi cities will continue, and measures to protect from the virus will toughen amid a recent surge in infections. The Ministries of Peshmerga Affairs and Interior were also assigned to schedule reporting to duty hours in a way to minimise travel and contact, especially for those who commute from other cities to work. The same will apply to employees of other departments, who have to commute to work.

(Source: KRG)

Consul General in Erbil Virtually Meets President and Students of Sulaimaniya University

The U.S. Consul General in Erbil, Steve Fagin, met virtually with Dr. Ridha Hassan Hussein, President of Sulaimaniya University and students to discuss future academic collaboration, the impact of COVID19 and recent activities organized by the American Corner in Sulaimaniya.

Consul General Fagin encouraged the university students and staff to apply for exchange programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

The U.S. remains committed to building academic linkages between U.S. institutions and universities in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

(Source: US Embassy in Baghdad)

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

Facebook closes accounts linked to Kurdish intelligence in Iraq

Facebook closed several accounts and pages linked to Kurdish intelligence in Iraq last month.

The pages were used by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in its political rivalry with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), according to findings from a report released by Facebook.

Click here to read the full story.

Click here to read statement from Facebook.

By John Lee.

DNO ASA, the Norwegian oil and gas operator, today provided production and spend guidance for the balance of the year ahead of its Annual General Meeting on Wednesday.

The Company reported that it has implemented the target 35 percent reductions across all spend categories to shrink its 2020 budget by USD 350 million to USD 640 million in response to turbulence and uncertainty in global oil and financial markets triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

While strengthening its balance sheet, cutbacks in spend will throttle back 2020 Company Working Interest (CWI) production to a projected 88,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), of which the Kurdistan region of Iraq will contribute 71,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) and the North Sea 17,000 boepd. DNO’s CWI production averaged 104,800 boepd last year.

In Kurdistan, DNO has reduced the number of rigs deployed in drilling, testing and workovers from five in 2019 and early 2020 to two; these two rigs are believed to be the only ones currently active in Kurdistan, down from an overall count approaching 20 last summer.

Of the two active rigs, one is drilling the Zartik-1 exploration well on the DNO-operated Baeshiqa license and the other is a Tawke license workover rig that will shortly be moved for scheduled maintenance. However, two third-party rigs have been warm stacked at the Tawke and Peshkabir fields and can quickly be mobilized if oil prices climb and export payments are regularized.

“Our cost cutbacks have been thoughtful and deliberate as we moved at warp speed to preserve cash and our balance sheet,” said Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani, DNO’s Executive Chairman. “The resulting reductions in oil production especially in Kurdistan are reversible with a restart of drilling,” he added. “We have not lost reserves but simply parked a portion until the market recovers. And it will.”

Gross production at the DNO-operated Tawke license in the Kurdistan region of Iraq containing the Tawke and Peshkabir fields, absent drilling of new infill wells to arrest natural field decline, is expected to average 100,000 bopd in 2020. This reflects a drop from 115,210 bopd in Q1 2020 to 100,000 bopd in Q2 2020 and 90,000 bopd over the balance of the year. The Tawke license exit rate at yearend 2020 is projected at 85,000 bopd absent new wells. Production continues to be split 55-45 between the Tawke and Peshkabir fields.

On a CWI basis, DNO’s production in Kurdistan in the second half of the year is projected to average 65,000 bopd (81,220 bopd in Q1 2020 and an estimated 70,000 bopd in Q2 2020). CWI in North Sea operations will contribute another 17,000 boepd in the second half of 2020 (18,640 boepd in Q1 2020 and an estimated 17,000 boepd in Q2 2020).

Budget cuts and the newly announced Norwegian production caps are not expected to make a material change to DNO’s 2020 North Sea projections; the majority of the Company’s fields subject to the restrictions are not fully utilizing their previous higher production permits.

DNO ASA 2020 Projected Spend
Q1 2020 Q2 2020 Q3+Q4 2020 2020 2019
Actual Projected Projected Projected Actual
USD million USD million USD million USD million USD million
Exploration expenditures 34 36 65 135 187
Capital expenditures 78 37 40 155 339
Operating expenditures 59 49 92 200 237
Abandonment expenditures 17 7 7 31 23
Operational spend 187 129 204 520 786
Other 40 34 46 120 203
TOTAL 227 163 250 640 989

Note: Figures above are pre-tax (i.e., before exploration tax refund in Norway). The category
“Other” includes general and administrative expenditures (G&A), net interest payments and

(Source: DNO)

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

Criticism mounts in Iraqi Kurdistan over unpaid teacher salaries

Ferhat is an English teacher at a public school in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region.

His salary comes from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), but five months into 2020 he has only been paid his monthly salary twice. Payment problems over the years forced him and other teachers to take on second jobs.

“It’s very difficult for us,” Ferhat told Al-Monitor. “Each one of us has to work after school to live.”

Click here to read the full story.