China “Set to Bail Out Iraq” with Oil Deal

By John Lee.

Iraq is reportedly poised to sign a multibillion-dollar contract with China's ZhenHua Oil, in what Bloomberg describes as a bailout from Beijing.

Under the deal, Iraq's cash-strapped government which will receive money upfront in exchange for long-term oil supplies.

Click here to read the full article.

(Source: Bloomberg)

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Saudi-Iraqi Business Forum Launched; New Projects Announced

By John Lee.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi received a delegation of Saudi officials and business people in Baghdad on Monday.

Among the visitors was the Saudi Minister of Commerce, Acting Minister of Media, and Chairman of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council, Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi.

The delegation included businessmen representing 22 Saudi companies.

During the meeting, they discussed issues of common interest between the two countries, and ways to support and enhance them in all fields.

The two sides also signed an agreement to establish a metal silo to store wheat in Al-Diwaniya province, and a hospital in Al-Saqlawiya, Anbar province.

(Source: SPA)

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Establishing a Sovereign Wealth Fund in Iraq

From the Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Prospects Of Establishing A Sovereign Wealth Fund In Iraq

Throughout history, financial crises have been met with innovative reform plans that help develop the resilience of a country's economic system, except when it comes to Iraq.

All major oil producing countries have developed sovereign wealth funds to help mitigate the effects of potential price drops on their economies, but Iraq has yet to do so.

This has not only resulted in temporary budgetary issues for Iraq, but has also allowed serious economic challenges to become entrenched in both the political and social structures of the country.

A first glance at the current economic crisis would suggest the need for a sovereign wealth fund (SWF) to overcome the impact of oil price drops.

However, Iraq's economic challenges stem from legacy issues. Therefore, can a SWF help alleviate these historical challenges and bring about reform?

In effect, can a tool for financial diversification become a means for political and socio-economic reform?

Click here to read the full report by Mohammed Hussein Baraka.

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Successful IBBC Conference in Dubai

IBBC's 5th Annual Iraq Conference in Dubai - Opportunity in Adversity

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) was much praised at its conference on Thursday for pioneering in COVID-19 times by bringing together senior officials from Iraq, the UAE and the UK, prominent international and Iraqi businessmen, bankers and professional advisers as speakers and over 100 delegates.

With the Address Hotel as host venue implementing the strictest hygiene regime and using video links, delegates enjoyed a day of vigorous analysis and debate about the issues currently creating the adverse conditions dominating the Iraqi political and business landscape and what measures were needed to improve matters, but nevertheless inspirational presentations highlighted success stories across a number of sectors in panel sessions covering energy, finance, infrastructure/logistics and tech.

Highlights of the day were presentations made by Mrs Zena Yousif Iraq consul general in Dubai, the first woman to ever hold that position, and the fact that all the leaders of the energy companies presenting were Iraqi nationals for the first time ever, namely Mr Zaid Elyaseri, Vice President Iraq from BP, Mr Ali Al Janabi, Chairman, from Shell, Mr Musab Alkateeb, Managing Director, from Siemens Energy, and all were addressing common global issues currently affecting that sector - low oil and gas prices, environmental and green issues.

Mr Aziz Khudairi, Chairman of the Khudairi Group with multiple businesses in Iraq urged the Iraqi Government to embrace the private sector to grow prosperity in Iraq and to provide employment for the millions of young Iraqis, to protect Iraqi businesses from unfair dumping by foreign competitors, but in return emphasised the need for the Iraqi workforce to rediscover a work ethic so that Iraqi companies would become efficient and profitable.

Baroness Nicholson made her Welcome Address by video link from London and at the end of the day announced the new annual award to be made to an Iraqi SME for its contribution to business in Iraq, in memory of the recently deceased Engineer Rasmi al Jabri, IBBC deputy chairman.

Amongst the many excellent speakers were:

  • H.E. Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, UAE
  • H.E. Dr Abdulkariem Al Faisal, Chairman of the Prime Minister's Advisory Commission
  • Mrs Zena Yousif, Consulate General of Iraq in Dubai
  • Mr Simon Penny, Her Majesty's UK Trade Commissioner for the Middle East

Conference Sponsors were Basra Gateway Terminal, Siemens Energy and Serco.

Vikas Handa of Gulftek, Conference chairman said:

"Today's IBBC conference in Dubai is the testimony of human resilience on the face of adversity. We had unexpected turnout & great participation from the ministers, industry leaders and businesses from Iraq, UAE & UK.

"We covered a lot of ground to chart the way forward, network & learn from each other. I along with IBBC MD Christophe Michels would like to thank our key members for their unwavering support to make it happen."

In parallel

The Tech Forum took place online, with participants from Iraq, UK, Dubai and France, to review and discuss the digitisation of Iraq, based on the World Bank's Report in April.

Chaired by Ashley Goodall of IBBC, we reviewed how the Government of Iraq ( GOI ) and digital development in general has been evolving since April, as Alexandre Laure, the World bank Sector specialist, who wrote the report - shared with us areas of development : namely, 6 key areas : Digital inclusion, banking and finance, Investment, Infrastructure, SMEs and start-ups, skill development and linking to external digital organisations. Two areas of progress include the establishment of a Tech fund for start-ups and SME investment, and the payment of Government salaries directly to bank accounts digitally. Additionally, there are areas of deregulation for start -ups and new businesses, although the registration cost of $37500 was deemed exclusionary for most start-ups.

Jawad Abbasi of GSMA MENA said that 4G infrastructure is critical in extending internet across Iraq, and this has been put on hold for the moment. This would increase the ability of users to trade, exchange and create new products on-line, as well as boost the digital economy. Yazen Altimimi CEO of Zain Cash echoed this issue as Zain are often blamed for poor internet experience, when it's an infrastructure issue. Zain's consumer uptake is rapid and there is a healthy growth and interest in the digital economy as a business and consumer medium. If 4G can be delivered the economy will see a rapid upswing. In short there is pent up demand and an appetite from consumers to transact on- line, so it makes sense to deliver 4G to ensure the whole economy expands.

Laura Oliver, director of Iraq Tech Ventures, amplified the issue for start -ups and SME.s who want to trade on line, and the raised the issue of the high cost of registration that prohibits start-ups registering formally, and therefore rely on the cash economy, so they are unable to get formal credit and investment. These two issues, of 4G and registration should be straight forward to address and would make a big different to the overall digital development of the Iraqi economy, and encourage investment from external digital companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google.

In a second panel: Online Consumer behaviour, Caroline McGarr of ThinkBank - a leading research agency in Irbil, presented key finding among Iraqi consumers between 18-45, and again found a big demand for consumer goods, banking on line for an unbanked 83% of the population. In sectors such as Fashion, health and social media there is enormous pent up demand as over 50% of these people spend over 5 hours a day on-line. Again, the issue of reliable internet, useful apps and products to purchase and reliability of banking, echo the first panel's concerns.

The overall message from both panels is that there is huge unmet demand among youthful Iraqi's for more services, better internet, better banking (trust) and online interaction with Government and products that will be better served by better internet and the proliferation of new goods and services from SMEs and start-ups, who themselves are constrained by registration fees and investment.

A full video of the sessions, including the presentation charts can be viewed here

For more information please contact london@webuildiraq.org

(Source: IBBC)

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COVID-19’s impact on Social Cohesion in Iraq

COVID-19's impact on Social Cohesion in Iraq cannot be ignored in recovery efforts: New report

The impact of COVID-19 on social cohesion in Iraq represents yet another challenge faced by communities across the country and must be addressed to ensure Iraq's full recovery from the pandemic, according to a new report released today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq, in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The policy paper is the third in a series released by UNDP Iraq on the impact of COVID-19 in Iraq. Building on the first two reports, the Impact of COVID-19 and the Oil Crisis on Iraq's Fragility, and the Impact of COVID-19 on the Iraqi Economy

The Impact of COVID-19 on Social Cohesion in Iraq notes COVID-19's exacerbation of existing and sometimes deeply rooted political, economic, social and security challenges, highlighting its resulting impact on the country's diverse social fabric.

Resident Representative of UNDP Iraq, Zena Ali Ahmad, said:

"Social cohesion is critical to achieving our central objective of leaving no one behind.

"While the Iraqi Government is wholly committed to improving social cohesion in Iraq, the challenges remain significant, with COVID-19 adding to already complex social dynamics in and between communities.

"Scaling-up confidence-building measures, while tackling the pandemic, remains an enormous challenge, and this report makes policy recommendations to help the Government and other stakeholders effectively plan for Iraq's recovery. Strengthening the social contract between citizens and the State should be the baseline for Iraq's recovery, and UNDP Iraq stands ready to support this effort."

Additional thematic policy papers will be released in the coming months focusing on the implications of the pandemic on social protection, environmental sustainability and the socioeconomic fallout on vulnerable households.

UNDP Iraq is grateful to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq for its collaboration on The Impact of COVID-19 on Social Cohesion in Iraq.

Read the paper here.

(Source: UNDP)

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Iraqi Camp Closures leave 100,000 in Limbo

The ongoing rapid closure of displacement camps in Iraq is rendering homeless more than 100,000 people in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and at the onset of winter.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is extremely concerned about the fate of thousands of displaced families living in camps across the country that are being closed down rapidly, including NRC-managed Hammam Al Alil Camp.

People in camps in Baghdad, Kerbala, Divala, Suleimaniya, Anbar, Kirkuk and Ninewa are being forced out with little notice, and are expected to return to their areas of origin. Many come from neighbourhoods that are still totally destroyed and they also risk being blocked at checkpoints, or even arrested, because of lack of security clearance and perceived affiliation with armed groups.

"Closing camps before residents are willing or able to return to their homes does little to end the displacement crisis. On the contrary, it keeps scores of displaced Iraqis trapped in this vicious cycle of displacement, leaving them more vulnerable than ever, especially in the middle of a raging pandemic," said NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland.

So far, based on instructions by the Iraqi authorities, some 600 households have left Hammam Al Alil Camp -- which is one of the largest displacement camps slated to close by next week.

Ahlam, a 49-year-old woman from Mosul living in Hammam Al Alil, burst into tears upon hearing about her forced eviction from the camp. "This is my home. Why would you force me out of my home? We will become homeless. It feels like a funeral to me." She said her last resort would be to set up her tent somewhere in Mosul. Some camp residents have had to sell their tents simply to cover transport costs to go back to their areas of origin.

Tracking of people who have been forced to leave camps in Baghdad and Kerbala in the past weeks shows that nearly half of them have not been able to return to their areas of origin so far, according to the International Organisation of Migration. Many end up in precarious settings on the edge of towns, in damaged, unsafe apartments or unfinished buildings, lacking basic necessities and health care, and forced into further displacement.

A 47-year-old woman pushed out of a camp last year recounted how she had to move four times before ending up in another camp -- a scenario faced also last week by evicted families who made plans to move to another camp only to be told the second camp is closing down too.

"The most difficult thing when they transport you in cars and you don't know where you are heading, is to know that most of these areas do not want you," the woman said.

NRC calls on the Iraqi government to provide a clear plan for camp closures and share that information with families at least a month ahead so that they can make necessary arrangements. Authorities need to ensure coordination with receiving districts so that returnees are not turned away at checkpoints, as well as involve humanitarian organisations in the planning so that returnees can be helped en route and upon arrival at their destination. Those who are unable to return safely to their homes also need to be provided with resettlement and local integration options.

"Anything short of such measures will expose tens of thousands of displaced Iraqis to continued deprivation, rejection and violence," Jan Egeland added. "We urge the international community to keep supporting the Iraqis forced out of camps, many of whom have no chance of returning home. With the pandemic and onset of winter, it is urgent to scale up emergency support."

(Source: NRC, ReliefWeb)

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Why you should come to IBBC Conference: Opportunity in Adversity

Why you should come to the IBBC Conference in Dubai, entitled 'Opportunity in Adversity'

On 19th November the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) is holding its Autumn conference in person at the Address hotel Dubai Marina.

Some would say it's a brave decision, considering COVID, but others are keen to take up the challenge and opportunity to engage, meet, listen to expert business voices of Iraq and overall have proper opportunities for networking.

Not only do we have a good level of members signed up to attend, but also one of the strongest line ups of speakers, ready and willing to address the opportunities for Iraq in 2020.

The backdrop to this conference is not just COVID, but the election of a new American President, rising oil prices, a fundamental change in the way oil and gas companies are globally which will also affect their work in Iraq, a Government willing and able to make significant changes, in the way finance operates, investors can start up and a white paper that will impact a range of activity and on-going digital modernisation.

All these topics will be covered, and we are expecting significant speakers and attendees from our membership and the Ministry of Oil, the Deputy Minister of Electricity, and online from the World Bank, Central Bank payments director and Ministry of Communications, Mastercard and Zain Cash to name a few.

You can hear about one of the biggest changes as the oil and gas companies redefine themselves as Energy companies, and vertically integrate fuel with electricity generation. BP, Shell, Siemens and Ministry of Electricity will address this and other matters on the Energy panel.

On the Finance panel, we are looking at how to operate successfully in the present very challenging financial situation of the country. New proposals by the Government's white paper will also be discussed and how these align with the need of private sector.

Finally, the Tech Forum with the World Bank on the digitisation of Iraq, the progress that is being made with GOI, and to hear from Mastercard and GSMA and Thinkbank on consumer online behaviour and attitudes.

Now is a great opportunity for change and we believe Iraq won't let the opportunity go to waste. Iraq is at a critical inflection point and the Government understands the importance of encouraging the private sector as a vehicle to solving investment, jobs and diversifying the economy at this time, which is why we are expecting a strong attendance from members and speakers alike from sectors crucial to Iraq's future.

As we look to the coming year, we see a Government making good decisions, investing in large projects, understanding the importance of diversifying its economy and also providing work and opportunity to its young population.

Now is the time to turn up, attend and make plans for the future of Iraq, and we look forward to welcoming you.

Please register here:

https://iraqbritainbusiness.org/event/ibbc-autumn-conference-at-the-address-hotel-dubai-marina

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Achieving SDGs to Recover from COVID in Iraq

Conference highlights importance of achieving SDGs to recover from COVID-19 pandemic

The challenges and opportunities of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the context of COVID-19 was the focus of a two-day conference organized by the Ministry of Planning in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq.

Held on the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the SDGs, the conference provided an opportunity for  dialogue among development partners from ministries, civil society organizations, universities, the private sector, and youth groups to work together, exchange ideas, and identify opportunities for Iraq to progress on the ambitious SDG agenda.

Globally, COVID-19 has caused a crisis with far reaching impact on economic and human development. Iraq Is not an exception, and the country has been impacted by the 'dual crisis' of COVID-19 and the decline in oil prices.

These shocks are more likely to have a more severe effect on marginalized groups, including women, the elderly, people with disabilities, minorities, displaced people, and people living in informal settlements. This makes it imperative to remember what the 2030 Agenda called for, to leave no one behind.

With only ten years remaining to achieve the ambitious agenda, the SDGs are more important today than ever before as they aim to transform systems that undermine well-being and perpetuate vulnerabilities.

Resident Representative of UNDP Iraq, Zena Ali Ahmad, said:

"The past few months have given us an opportunity, in partnership with the esteemed Ministry of Planning and our partners in other sectors, to rethink what a 'new normal' would look like post the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We should collectively work hard to support the achievement of the SDGs in Iraq and prevent any regression in the development gains that have been achieved over the past years."

(Source: UN)

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Recent Data Draws Bleak Prospect for Iraq Next Year

By Ahmed Mousa Jiyad.

Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Recent Data Draws Bleak Prospect for Iraq Next Year

The Iraqi economy has been in a bad shape and, in the short term, it is going to get worse; nothing new about this and there is almost a consensus about it despite differences in the cited material' verifiable evidence, manifestations and root-causes for such a degenerating situation.

A "multi-whammy" combination, or association, of effective impacting factors and circumstances played their part in what the country has been and is facing. These include political instability and divisions; fragile security conditions; vulnerability of high-dependency economic structure; bad and inefficient management and decision making; kleptocracy governance coupled with hyper corruption, particularly the formalized and institutionalized; and impacting external intrusion, among others.

Data and information on these factors and circumstances are massive, and hardly any day passes without adding new items to the long list of cases and examples reported by the media, formal entities, experts and legal authorities; the apparent outcome of all that is a severely deteriorated economy of Iraq.

Data I compiled from a recent IMF report regarding main macroeconomic indicators are presented in the table, which you can view in this pdf. The table provides the progression of 26 macroeconomic indicators over the last two decades using three different sets of data: the first is the average, of a long and rather up-normal period 2000-2016; the second, annual data for each of the last three years 2017:2019, and the third are projections for 2020 and 2021.

The focus in this brief contribution is on the prospects for the economy in this and next year, in comparison with the last three years.

Click here to download the full report in pdf format.

Mr Jiyad is an independent development consultant, scholar and Associate with the former Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES), London. He was formerly a senior economist with the Iraq National Oil Company and Iraq's Ministry of Oil, Chief Expert for the Council of Ministers, Director at the Ministry of Trade, and International Specialist with UN organizations in Uganda, Sudan and Jordan. He is now based in Norway (Email: mou-jiya(at)online.no, Skype ID: Ahmed Mousa Jiyad). Read more of Mr Jiyad's biography here.

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