By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraq:

(Source: UN)

(Picture: Finger pressing a new career start button, from Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock)

2.5 Million Iraqis and Businesses to Benefit from Improved Electricity Services

A new US$200 million World Bank project will provide increased and more reliable supply of electricity to about 2.5 million Iraqis and productive enterprises in the governorates of Basra, Al-Muthanna, Thi Qar, and Missan who currently suffer from frequent and long power cuts and rely on private or shared generators to cover the shortages within the public network.

The Electricity Services Reconstruction and Enhancement Project, approved today by the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors, will support the Government of Iraq’s efforts to improve the quality and reliability of electricity supply by reducing the capacity limitations in the electricity distribution and transmission network.

The project aims to support increased efficiency of electricity operations and management which is key to reducing the fiscal burden levied by the sector on Iraq’s budget, drawing resources away from other public sector needs such as reconstruction, health and education.

Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director, said:

The lack of access to reliable power has a significant impact on household well-being, business growth, and the capacity of the enterprise sector to create sustainable jobs for the growing numbers of youth entering the job market.

“Improved electricity supply will support job creation, including enhancing women’s ability to engage in income generating activities. It will also promote economic diversification and allow enterprises to increase their productivity, thus fostering inclusive economic growth and shared prosperity for the population of Iraq South region”.

The project will support the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the electricity transmission and distribution grid including installation of new lines and power substations. In addition, the project will include installation of an Integrated Management Information Systems and customer call centers.

These activities will not only increase the network capacity to deliver electricity to the consumer premises, but will also support improvements in network operations efficiency and customer care such as reducing the duration of electricity outages, improving the accuracy in meter reading and billing records and fast response to electricity consumer concerns.

Paul Baringanire, World Bank Senior Energy Specialist and Project Team Leader, said:

Improved efficiency, transparency, and accountability of operations will not only improve the sector’s performance but also enhance the image and credibility of the sector institutions namely the Ministry of Electricity, the South Electricity Transmission Company, and the South Electricity Distribution Company with shareholders and electricity customers thus contributing to restoring citizen confidence and gaining support for sustained operations.”

(Source: World Bank)

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraq:

(Source: UN)

(Picture: Finger pressing a new career start button, from Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock)

By John Lee.

A new report from the World Bank Group forecasts real GDP growth (at constant market prices) of 2.8 percent this year in Iraq, increasing to 8.1 percent next year:

Iraq’s economy is gradually picking up following the deep economic strains of the last four years. Real GDP is estimated to have grown by 0.6 percent in 2018, thanks to a notable improvement in security conditions and higher oil prices, reversing the contraction of 1.7 percent seen in 2017.

The non-oil economy picked up speed and grew at 4 percent, while oil production was slightly less than 2017 in line with the OPEC+ agreement. Recently, the Iraqi economy has received a boost of confidence with the signing of several trade agreements with its neighbors.

Reconstruction efforts have been proceeding at a moderate pace. Inflation remained low at 0.4 percent in 2018, but slightly up from 2017, due to higher domestic demand in addition to rising food and transportation costs.

The economic outlook has improved due to higher oil prices and improving security situation, but constraints on capital spending will impede a recovery-driven growth acceleration. Growth is expected to spike to 8.1 percent in 2020 due mainly to higher oil output, with OPEC+ agreement coming to an end in mid- 2019.

Non-oil growth is expected to remain positive on the back of higher investment needed to rebuild the country’s damaged infrastructure network, private consumption and investment. However, the recently approved 2019 budget presents a sizable increase in recurrent spending, and unless there is a significant reorientation in fiscal policy to a comprehensive recovery approach, there will be limited fiscal space to sustain post-war recovery and longer-term development.

Higher spending together with easing oil prices will result in a high fiscal deficit projected at 5.4 percent of GDP in 2019 before narrowing down to about 3 percent throughout 2020-2021.

Lower oil prices and increased imports will cause the current account balance to turn into deficit, financed partially by international reserves decumulation.

Click here to download the full report.

The Cabinet held its weekly regular meeting in Baghdad on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi.

It discussed the Iraqi government programme for 2018-2022, and adopted a covenant committing the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet to implementing the programme and to be held accountable for its delivery before parliament.

The Cabinet also discussed and agreed a roadmap to guide ministers as they begin to turn the government vision into practical measures.

Prime Minister Abd Al-Mahdi told the Cabinet that ministers must take all necessary measures to remove administrative barriers and cut red tape that may affect the implementation of the government programme.

The Cabinet agreed to the establishment by the World Bank of a recovery and reconstruction fund for Iraq.

The Cabinet voted to reduce import tariffs on books as part of the Iraqi government policy to promote a culture of reading and study.

(Source: Iraqi Govt)

A new UK aid package is to help the Government of Iraq to reinvigorate its economy and rebuild hospitals, schools and other vital infrastructure, allowing Iraqis displaced by conflict to return home and restart their lives, UK Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt announced during a four-day visit to Iraq.

The UK is the first donor to the newly formed Iraq Reform and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF), following close cooperation between the Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Iraq, the World Bank, Germany and other international partners to develop the fund.

The fund will:

  • encourage innovative approaches and provide technical assistance to the Government of Iraq as it reconstructs areas affected by conflict, including the rebuilding of houses, schools, hospitals, factories and roads.
  • provide opportunities to utilise UK and international expertise to help the Government of Iraq to carry out vital reforms that will make the country more business friendly.
  • help unlock Iraq’s economic potential, generate jobs, boost potential for enhanced future trade with the UK and other international partners and lay the ground-work for long-term peace and stability following the conflict with Daesh.

In addition to tackling Iraq’s long-term recovery and reconstruction, Mr. Burt also announced further support to help meet the immediate humanitarian needs of the 1.8 million people still displaced from their homes within Iraq, and a boost for stabilisation efforts to ensure vital services such as healthcare and electricity are reinstated quickly in places such as Mosul.

During the visit in which Iraq and the UK agreed to a joint communique to further strengthen bilateral relations, Mr Burt held wide ranging discussions on UK-Iraqi cooperation, trade, development and regional security issues with the Iraqi President Barham Salih, the Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mehdi, Foreign Minister, Deputy Foreign Minister and the Trade and Planning ministers.

He also met Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, and the Prime-Minister designate, Masrour Barzani. Whilst in the Kurdistan Region, the minister also met Minister for the Interior, and for Peshmerga Affairs Karim Sinjari, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani.

In support of the Foreign Secretary’s commitment to tackle the persecution of Christians across the globe, the minister also engaged with the Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda and grassroots faith organisations to gain their perspectives on freedom of religion and beliefs in the region.

Speaking from Baghdad the Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt said:

The UK is a strong partner and friend of Iraq. We share a range of mutual and growing priorities which include security, development, foreign policy and trade.

“There is much to be celebrated about Iraq’s progress since the territorial defeat of Daesh in 2017. But there is more to be done to help Iraq develop the strong, stable future, decided on by all Iraqis, that its people deserve. The UK remains committed to supporting Iraq to develop along non-sectarian lines, and we are particularly concerned about the rights and freedoms afforded to Christians and other minority faith groups.

“I am proud that we will be the first donor to the Iraq Reform and Reconstruction Fund. UK aid will provide vital support to the people of Iraq as they rebuild their lives, their businesses and their economic independence.

UK aid announced today for the humanitarian response will support vulnerable people displaced by conflict, providing clean water, medicine and shelter. Since 2014, UK aid in Iraq has provided 4.1 million people with life-saving healthcare, 2 million people with safe water and sanitation, 836,500 people with shelter and more than 408,000 people with food.

£16 million will be allocated to the Iraq Reform and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF), run by the World Bank, from DFID’s budget. The IRRF will support Government of Iraq-led reconstruction efforts following the destruction caused by the conflict with Daesh, and support the implementation of longer term economic reform.

£6.9 million will be allocated to UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilisation (FFS) in Iraq from the UK Government’s Conflict, Security and Stability Fund (CSSF). It will directly support the rehabilitation of critical infrastructure in areas of Iraq liberated from Daesh. This will include hospitals, school, power plants and roads destroyed in the fighting.

£10 million will be allocated to UN OCHA’s Iraq Humanitarian Pooled Fund from DFID’s budget. It will support the ongoing humanitarian response, providing for the immediate needs of vulnerable people in Iraq displaced by conflict. It will help deliver clean water, medicine, shelter and a wide range of additional services to people living within temporary camps. Since 2014, UK aid in Iraq has provided 4.1 million people with life-saving healthcare, 2 million people with safe water and sanitation, 836,500 people with shelter and more than 408,000 people with food.

(Source: UK Govt)

By John Lee.

Iraq has been ranked 171st out of 190 countries in the World Bank‘s recent Doing Business 2019 report, down from 168th place the previous year.

Top of the list were New Zealand, Singapore and Denmark, with last place going to Somalia, just behind Eritrea and Venezuela. Iran ranked 128th, with Libya 186th.

Doing Business measures regulations affecting 11 areas of the life of a business. Ten of these areas are included in this year’s ranking on the ease of doing business: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency. Doing Business also measures labor market regulation, which is not included in this year’s ranking.

More details here.

(Source: World Bank)

In the framework of the financing agreement signed yesterday by the Government of Iraq (GoI) and the European Union (EU) committing €14 million (US$15.8 equivalent) to support the government’s efforts to ensure increased and more reliable energy access for the Iraqi population, the EU and the World Bank Group (WBG) have signed today a €12.85 million (US$14.5 equivalent) implementation agreement to provide the needed technical assistance.

The initiative complements the ongoing and upcoming World Bank interventions in support of the GoI’s energy sector reforms, including those embedded in the budget support operations series (Development Policy Financing programs – DPFs), the Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS) for structuring the Gas Value Chain and Gas Marketing in Iraq, and the support to subsidy reforms funded by the ESMAP’s Energy Subsidy Reform Technical Assistance Facility (ESRAF).

Supporting Iraq’s private sector enabling energy sector reforms is a priority development objective in the country both for the EU and the WBG. In a country where the energy sector accounts for more than 90% of central government revenues, addressing energy sector challenges is an essential and complementary action to any public finances related reforms, an area in which the European Union and the World Bank are also partnering in Iraq.

The country is also the world’s 3rd largest exporter of oil and its untapped natural gas reserves are the 12th largest in the world, yet it is forced to import fuel to meet its domestic energy demand, which imposes significant economic and fiscal strain on public finances. Equally important, Iraqi citizens are regularly faced with power shortages and have to resort to more expensive and pollutant sources of energy.

Efficiency in the management of public resources and delivery of services are critical to the achievement of public policy objectives, especially for a resource-rich upper-middle income country like Iraq, as well as fundamental to restore the trust and social contract between Iraqi citizen’s and the country’s institutions, especially in a post-conflict era of stabilisation and reconstruction. “As pledged in the Kuwait Conference, the European Union is committed to help Iraq’s reconstruction efforts and economic and political reforms to secure a better future for its citizens,”

(Source: Relief Web)

The World Bank Group, the Government of Iraq, and the Government of Canada launched today a US$1.95 million grant to support Iraq’s efforts to strengthen systems and deliver programs to empower women economically and politically.

The “Gender and Social Protection in Iraq: Towards Economic Empowerment” program consists of two complementary components: the first component will set in place long-term legislative and institutional capacity for gender mainstreaming, while the second will introduce programs that will support the economic and political empowerment of women in Iraq, including entrepreneurial programs for poor and vulnerable women.

Saroj Kumar Jha (pictured), World Bank Mashreq Regional Director, said:

We are excited to partner with the Government of Canada to support women’s empowerment in Iraq. We are committed to supporting women in Iraq and we’ll work tirelessly to ensure that Iraqi women have the opportunity to participate fully in all facets of life and to contribute to Iraq’s socio-economic development.

This project contributes to the wider World Bank’s socio-economic intervention in Iraq and is consistent with the Iraq’s Second Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Social Protection Strategic Framework.

H.E. Dr. Mehdi Al-Alak, Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, said

The program will support the ongoing gender empowerment efforts led by the government. It will help us achieve women’s empowerment by reducing legal, institutional, and social constraints and unleash their talent and energy to make our economy and society stronger.

Ambassador Paul Gibbard, Canada’s first resident Ambassador to Iraq since 1991

Canada recognizes that supporting gender equality and the empowerment of women is the best way to build a more peaceful, more inclusive and more prosperous Iraq. With our partners from the World Bank and the Government of Iraq, we will work to empower women so that they are able to play a vital role in establishing and maintaining peace in their communities—a necessary precondition for stronger economic growth in Iraq.”

The “Gender and Social Protection in Iraq: Towards Economic Empowerment” program will entail a review of existing women’s empowerment programs and provide technical support through workshops and working sessions to government officials on enhancing the design and implementation of these programs, as well as on strengthening monitoring and evaluation schemes.

(Source: World Bank Group)

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

The Iraqi Ministry of Planning announced the launch of the Social Fund for Development on Sept. 23, with initial capital of $300 million, in cooperation with the World Bank.

The project aims to improve the living conditions of Iraq’s poor. High poverty rates in Iraq have led to repeated protests for 15 years calling for improving the standard of living and for more employment opportunities. These protests have resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries.

A May 2018 World Bank report noted that Iraq’s population of 38.5 million sits at the poverty line with a poverty rate of 22.5%. The spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Ammar Menem, told Al-Monitor that this high rate is due to “exceptional security conditions ensuing from the war and its costs, as well as to the slump in oil prices. This resulted in the cessation of funding of projects for the rehabilitation of unemployed persons, a lack of investment projects and faltering economic growth.”

Click here to read the full story.