Dhi Qar Protests: PM Replaces Governor

By John Lee.

Iraq's Cabinet held its weekly meeting on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

The Prime Minister addressed the developments in Dhi Qar province, and confirmed that, following consultations with key stakeholders, a new governor has been appointed to run the province and his name will be announced shortly.

He told the Cabinet that an advisory council will be appointed in Dhi Qar, reporting to him, and that he he will follow up on a daily basis with the new governor and the council on all matters related to the reconstruction of Dhi Qar.

He also indicated that the results of the investigation into the violence during the recent demonstrations in Dhi Qar will be announced.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

The post Dhi Qar Protests: PM Replaces Governor first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Protesters Block Entrances to Oil Facilities

By John Lee.

Protesters have reportedly blocked the entrances to the Dhi Qar Oil Company (DQOC), Dhi Qar Refinery, and the Oil Products Distribution Company.

According to Anadolu Agency, they were protesting the passing of the 2021 budget by the Iraqi parliament, which did not meet their expectations regarding guaranteed employment.

More here.

(Source: Anadolu Agency)

The post Protesters Block Entrances to Oil Facilities first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Foreign Staff Evacuated from Basra Gas Company

 By John Lee.

Shell has reportedly evacuated its foreign staff who had been working at the Basra Gas Company (BGC).

BGC executives told Reuters that around 60 staff were flown out on Wednesday after workers who had been laid off staged a protest.

Shell has a 44-percent stake in the $17-billion, 25-year BGC project, with Iraq's South Gas Company (SGC) having 51 percent, and Japan's Mitsubishi 5 percent.

(Source: Reuters)

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Budget Realties, Protestor Demands

By Ahmed Tabaqchali, CIO of Asia Frontier Capital (AFC) Iraq Fund. This article was originally published by the LSE Middle East Centre.

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

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Iraq's Political Class' Dilemma between Budget Realties and Protestor Demands

The twin shocks of the effect of coronavirus on the world economy and the current oil price war will stress Iraq's budget to the limit, and lead to an economic crisis if it continues for an extended period.

While as extraordinary shocks they were unforeseeable, the Iraqi budget's structural imbalance would have inevitably led to such an economic crisis - the only question being when and not if.

A low oil price environment exposes the structural faultiness of the budget with projected revenues not covering current spending, which is mostly composed of salaries, pensions and welfare spending. These have increased from 50% of current expenditures in 2004 to an estimated 81% in 2019, and likely to more than 85% in 2020.[1] As such the default choice for the government would be to cancel all investment spending, especially non-oil investment spending, and resort to borrowing.

Such measures have allowed the government to continue functioning, but these come at a huge cost to the economy as Table 2 below shows. Global debt markets are not as accommodating as they were in 2014-17 given Iraq's estranged relationship with the US and the change in the IMF's stance toward Iraq. As such the government would have to resort to domestic sources, which ultimately means indirect monetary operations by the CBI at the expense of the its foreign reserves as happened in 2014-16.

Moreover, these measures would only postpone and not resolve the crises, needing much higher oil prices to contain or mask it like in 2017-19. Medium-term oil prices would probably (for Brent prices) settle within a range of $50-60/bbl, which should partially relieve the stress on the budget, but not the need to address its imbalance.

Iraq's 2019 budget, initially proposed by the prior government, submitted with minor changes by the current government and approved by the current parliament, perpetuated the same deficiencies and weaknessess of all Iraq's budgets since 2003. Crucially, it deepened the structural imbalance between the budget's current and investment expenditures, in which public sector wages consumed an ever-increasing share of government revenues.

Moreover, it undermined and reversed most of the small, but essential, fiscal reforms agreed with the IMF in the 2016 Stand-By Agreement (SBA) to address this structural imbalance; and which needed considerable follow-up reforms over the years to put the country on a sustainable path to growth  and reduce the economy's vulnerabilities to the volatile oil market. The extent of these vulnerabilities came to the fore during the collapse in oil prices in 2014, and coupled with the cost of the ISIS conflict, this led to a sharp contraction to the non-oil economy in 2014-17.

Table 1: Real non-oil GDP change 2014-17. Source: Iraq-Business News

Undeterred by these memories, the budget's planners, buoyed by the bounty of higher oil revenues, from late 2017 embarked on an expansionary budget that magnified these very vulnerabilities. This was achieved by simultaneously reversing the growth of non-oil revenues and by increasing current spending. Non-oil revenues decreased in both absolute terms and as a percentage of total revenues: -18% and -29% respectively in 2019 and 2018.

Additionally, 25% of these non-oil revenues were in fact oil-related in the form of taxes on foreign oil companies and the budget's share from profits from the state's oil companies. Current spending increased by 15% with the salary and pensions component growing by 7.5% instead of decreasing continuously.

The budget's trumpeted increase of 29% in investment spending hides the fact that only 43% of this total spending for 2019 was earmarked for non-oil investment, which would nevertheless increase by 43% in 2019. However, historically this spending is on paper only, with an execution rate of under 65%. The performance in 2019 was much worse than normal with non-oil investment spending at about IQD 3.3 trn as of November 2019 from a planned budget of IQD 14.0 trn, or about a 24% execution rate.

The budget planners' aims for 2020 were for a continuation of the expansionary budget of 2019, which dismayed the IMF enough for it to issue a critical country report (19/248) - the first since 2004. Adding to the dismay was the fact that the government's plan for fiscal probity was based on expectations of continued high oil prices, as well as sticking to its historic under-execution of the budget. Essential budget reforms to address the structural imbalance were delegated to an expression of interest for inclusion in medium term fiscal strategy planning.

The IMF then modelled for a 2020 budget with revenues estimated at IQD 113.1 trn based on oil price assumptions of $55.8/bbl. Expenditures were estimated at IQD 123.2 trn, made up of current expenditures at IQD 99.1 trn, while oil investment spending was estimated at IQD 15.5 trn and non-oil investment spending at IQD 8.6 trn. This would have needed debt financing of IQD 10.0 trn to balance the budget. Since it's almost impossible to cut the bulk of current spending, the government must have been anticipating a better budgetary situation through Iraqi oil prices higher than $55.8/bbl and from under-executing much needed non-oil investment spending and reconstruction.

By October, plans for budget expenditure ballooned by 31% to IQD 162.0 trn, necessitating debt financing of IQD 48.9 trn. While there are no details apart from spending and deficit figures, the political paralysis following the failure of the prime minister-designate to form a government in early March has put a halt to these runaway expenditure plans.

As long as the political class' existential fear from the five-month long youth-led countrywide demonstrations continues to ebb and flow, this political paralysis is likely to continue. However, the main economic consequences would be the same whether a new government forms under a new prime minister-designate, or if the current caretaker government continues to limp on. The outcome either way will be that no new budget will be passed, with the government continuing to implement the executed parts of 2019's budget throughout 2020 according to the '1/12th rule'.

Essentially, this means the government will continue to spend (per month) 1/12th of the actual spend in 2019 - effectively extending the current spending component for 2019 in addition to the increased spending of IQD 10.5 trn as a result of government measures to appease the demonstrators in October 2019. The government will likewise continue with the investment projects initiated in 2019.

Estimating the effects of the current events on the Iraqi budget is fraught with uncertainty. Current predictions on the extent of the decline in oil prices mirror those made following the 2014 oil price war, which then assumed a continuation of the decline into the future. This in time proved to be overly pessimistic, as will the current 'worst-case' prognoses. Moreover, though the effects of the new coronavirus on the world economy will be profound in Q1/2020, the extent and the continuation of these effects for the rest of the year remains uncertain.

However, these negative effects would be compounded for oil prices by a sharply increased supply in an environment of weakened demand. The upshot would be an extended period of lower oil prices. The table below looks at the budget for 2015-19 and estimates for 2020 based on different realised oil prices for 2020 as whole (please see footnote 2 for notes and assumptions used).

Table 2: Iraq's budget 2015-20. Source: Iraq Ministry of Finance[2]

Past policies of spending oil revenues on expanding the public payroll and welfare spending, in the process depleting the country's wealth without building its infrastructure, has resulted in an economy dependent on imports of goods and services, a stunted private sector and a labour market skewed towards public employment. This development has been at the root cause of successive countrywide demonstrations. The need to urgently restructure the budget's structural imbalances will require painful reforms and a long adjustment period, and thus would need a buy-in by the population at large.

This, given the extent of the current anti-political elite protest movement and the scale of the repression of this movement, is unlikely without significant political reform.


[1] The percentage figures are made up of salaries, pensions and transfers. Transfers are mostly composed of welfare spending and transfers to State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) which in turn are primarily for salary payments and support to SOEs. Source: IMF Iraq country reports 2004-19.

[2] Revenues and expenditures for 2015-19 sourced from Ministry of Finance (MoF). These figures constitute revenues and expenditures actually received/made at the time and not booked. As such they differ, sometimes significantly, from those provided by the IMF. The crucial difference being that they resemble an actual cash flow statement and not an income statement. This can be seen from the difference between the Ministry of Oil's (MoO) revenue data which show sales made and the MoF's data which how funds received which can lag actual sales.
Iraqi oil sales and average Iraqi oil price are taken from MoO website, while average Brent prices can be found here. CBI foreign reserves are as of end of 2019 and are found here. 2019 budget numbers are as of November 2019 and projected to continue into end of 2019. Oil revenues are based on MoO data which are available as of the end of December 2019. The 2020 budget numbers assume a continuation of the budget spent for 2019. It is assumed that Iraq would maintain market share through aggressive pricing and thus that the discount to Brent would increase from $3.35 for 2019 to $4.50.

Disclaimer: Ahmed Tabaqchali's comments, opinions and analyses are personal views and are intended to be for informational purposes and general interest only and should not be construed as individual investment advice or a recommendation or solicitation to buy, sell or hold any fund or security or to adopt any investment strategy. It does not constitute legal or tax or investment advice. The information provided in this material is compiled from sources that are believed to be reliable, but no guarantee is made of its correctness, is rendered as at publication date and may change without notice and it is not intended as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding Iraq, the region, market or investment.

Constitutional Amendments Relating to Petroleum Issues

By Ahmed Mousa Jiyad.

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

Constitutional Amendments Relating to Petroleum Issues

The “October Uprising” is sustained, vertically and horizontally, causing on one side regrettable loss of human lives, inflicting serious damage and destruction to public, business and private properties among other things, and on the other advancing, forcefully, many legitimate important demands, some of which are accepted by the authorities and political blocks; the constitutional amendments is one of them.

Many actions were quickly taken regarding this particular demand.  To begin with, the protesters themselves designate specific “Tent for Re-Writing the Constitution” located at the central gathering place, i.e., Tahrir Square, and invited experts, legal specialists, academics and others to submit their proposals to and participate in the ongoing debate at the “Tent”.

The House of Representatives (the Parliament) formed special temporary entity, Constitutional Amendments Committee-CAC, which has to finalise its mandate within four months. Again, CAC at the commencement of its duty called for contribution from outside sources and devised different ways and means for that purpose. Similarly, the Office of the Presidency (of the Republic), formed a parallel committee (the Presidency Committee for the Constitutional Amendments- PCCA) for the same purpose; both committees are of official formal nature, causing confusions and doubt on the real intention of the establishment.

Responding to the protesters demand, the proposals by the United Nations Mission in Iraq, UNAMI, include amendment of the Constitution and its readiness to provide technical support in this regard. This was seen, by many commentators, as a step towards “internationalization” of the matter and calls for external interventions; a replica off 2005. On the political platform, a dozen of “political blocks” that has influential position in the prevailing system since 2003 issued a statement supportive to amending the constitution. Finally, other entities, writers and professionals expressed the same urgent demand to re-write the current constitute or even have a completely a new one.

In the light of the above, this article is a modest contribution in this endeavour.

Based on my continuous follow-up and evaluation of actual practices and formal positions that have adopted or relied upon different interpretation of constitutional articles, I am emphatically convinced it is necessary, inevitable and urgent to amend those constitutional articles. This is particularly vital for articles that are related, directly and indirectly, to oil, gas and energy issues, especially those related to upstream petroleum sub-sector, i.e., exploration, development and production, and export of oil.

This is a summary of a more detailed and lengthy report written in Arabic and posted directly, among others, to a significant number of high-level officials at the three branches of government.

At the outset and before proceeding with the contents of this contribution, it is vital to make a few important notes:

First, I used, in preparing this contribution, the text of the constitution published in the Iraqi Official Gazette (Alwaqaee Aliraqiya) No. 4012 on 28/12/2005.

But this text, according to new and apparently many credible assertions, is different from the text that was distributed to and voted on by the Iraqi people in 2005. The published text comprises 144 articles while the circulated text for voting contains 139 articles; the added articles were and still are highly controversial ones.

This raises serious fundamental concerns and problems relating to the legitimacy and constitutionality of the added articles and even the entire text of the officially recognized constitution; what was published in the Official Gazette is, procedurally, the valid constitution, while the text voted by the people is, or should be the mandatory/real constitution!! 15 years of what appears to be a fraudulent and deception should end and end soon, according to good number of observers!

Second, the constitutional amendments are govern by articles 126 and 142, and both give any “region” a veto right, with different qualifications, to reject any amendments even if they are accepted and endorsed by the majority of Iraqi voters; what sort of democracy and federation is this1?.

Moreover, based on previous parliamentary deliberations there is a controversy regarding the validity of article 142 causing serious division among the members of CAC; that prompts CAC, a few days ago, to seek opinion from the Supreme Federal Court to resolve and decide on the matter.

I believe the Court, based on the principle of substantially changing circumstances and availability of compelling new material evidence, would make a decision that facilitates and supports the necessary constitutional amendments; the Court cannot risk to be seen acting against the mounting demand for amending a flawed sovereign law.

Third, I certainly see that there are many articles in the Constitution that must be amended or deleted and new articles could be added, in addition to those relating to petroleum issues. In this regard, it might be necessary to distinguish between “political realism” that is premised on “politics is the art of the possible” (promoted by the political establishment) and the “reality of the intifada” that aims to “make the not-possible possible” (promoted by the “uprising” and substantiated by the swift actions to vote, in the parliament, on laws that are proposed, but shelved, many years ago and measures to combat corruption and kleptocracy): to overcome the mistakes and practices of a decade and a half long with a constitution that becomes imperative to modify or even to replace it.

In this regard, thematic contributions, with specific and consistent proposals, are vital and more effective in the current efforts to amend the Constitution. Hence, professionals, experts and associations, among others, should have their say in the ongoing debate and consultations according to their expertise and area of specialisation; if we do not act now, when will we!!

Fourth; despite the structural importance of the petroleum sector in the Iraqi, imbalance, economy, which is well known to everyone, the term ” petroleum policy” is not mentioned in the constitution, while a long list of many other “policies” have been mentioned and highlighted.

What is even more surprising, and suspicious as well, that petroleum sector was not included in the “exclusive powers of the federal authorities”; this certainly constitutes a very serious flaw, by intention or omission, when preparing and approving the constitution and, thus, must be addressed.

Therefore, due to practical considerations and evidence-based analysis , this contribution aims at presenting some specific proposals exclusively designed to amending articles relating, directly and indirectly, to petroleum  issues (oil and gas), keeping in mind the role of these issues and there, unquestionable, repercussions on the sustainable development of the Iraqi economy.

The following methodology was followed in addressing each constitutional article that I found relevant to the subject matter and thus included in this mission:

First: Specify the article under evaluation in terms of: article number, sub-article(s) and the actual text: in whole or in part;

Second: adopt “text analysis approach” considering the three related factors: purpose of the legislator, the practices and conduct of the implementer (executive) and the sovereignty of the text.

This, by necessity, is the most important, most detailed and longest part in the entire exercise since it deals, basically, with issues relating to basic questions: what, which, why and how.

Third: based on such text-analysis, evidence based and relevant material facts, specific textual proposals are suggested, these can be through amendment or cancellation or substitution or addition of a new article(s).

The results of this work are:

  1. There are nine articles that are directly related to and indirectly impacting petroleum issues; these articles are: 80; 110; 111; 112; 114; 115; 121; 126; 141;
  2. The analysis and evaluation of the above articles resulted in fourteen different proposals.

Details of the analysis, the premises for each proposal and the text of each suggestion are included in a research report written in Arabic, which is circulated widely and reposted on many websites and accessible through many, including, the following:

https://www.akhbaar.org/home/2019/11/265005.html

http://www.tellskuf.com/index.php/mq/86059-nn2411.html

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.

Constitutional Amendments Relating to Petroleum Issues

By Ahmed Mousa Jiyad.

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

Constitutional Amendments Relating to Petroleum Issues

The “October Uprising” is sustained, vertically and horizontally, causing on one side regrettable loss of human lives, inflicting serious damage and destruction to public, business and private properties among other things, and on the other advancing, forcefully, many legitimate important demands, some of which are accepted by the authorities and political blocks; the constitutional amendments is one of them.

Many actions were quickly taken regarding this particular demand.  To begin with, the protesters themselves designate specific “Tent for Re-Writing the Constitution” located at the central gathering place, i.e., Tahrir Square, and invited experts, legal specialists, academics and others to submit their proposals to and participate in the ongoing debate at the “Tent”.

The House of Representatives (the Parliament) formed special temporary entity, Constitutional Amendments Committee-CAC, which has to finalise its mandate within four months. Again, CAC at the commencement of its duty called for contribution from outside sources and devised different ways and means for that purpose. Similarly, the Office of the Presidency (of the Republic), formed a parallel committee (the Presidency Committee for the Constitutional Amendments- PCCA) for the same purpose; both committees are of official formal nature, causing confusions and doubt on the real intention of the establishment.

Responding to the protesters demand, the proposals by the United Nations Mission in Iraq, UNAMI, include amendment of the Constitution and its readiness to provide technical support in this regard. This was seen, by many commentators, as a step towards “internationalization” of the matter and calls for external interventions; a replica off 2005. On the political platform, a dozen of “political blocks” that has influential position in the prevailing system since 2003 issued a statement supportive to amending the constitution. Finally, other entities, writers and professionals expressed the same urgent demand to re-write the current constitute or even have a completely a new one.

In the light of the above, this article is a modest contribution in this endeavour.

Based on my continuous follow-up and evaluation of actual practices and formal positions that have adopted or relied upon different interpretation of constitutional articles, I am emphatically convinced it is necessary, inevitable and urgent to amend those constitutional articles. This is particularly vital for articles that are related, directly and indirectly, to oil, gas and energy issues, especially those related to upstream petroleum sub-sector, i.e., exploration, development and production, and export of oil.

This is a summary of a more detailed and lengthy report written in Arabic and posted directly, among others, to a significant number of high-level officials at the three branches of government.

At the outset and before proceeding with the contents of this contribution, it is vital to make a few important notes:

First, I used, in preparing this contribution, the text of the constitution published in the Iraqi Official Gazette (Alwaqaee Aliraqiya) No. 4012 on 28/12/2005.

But this text, according to new and apparently many credible assertions, is different from the text that was distributed to and voted on by the Iraqi people in 2005. The published text comprises 144 articles while the circulated text for voting contains 139 articles; the added articles were and still are highly controversial ones.

This raises serious fundamental concerns and problems relating to the legitimacy and constitutionality of the added articles and even the entire text of the officially recognized constitution; what was published in the Official Gazette is, procedurally, the valid constitution, while the text voted by the people is, or should be the mandatory/real constitution!! 15 years of what appears to be a fraudulent and deception should end and end soon, according to good number of observers!

Second, the constitutional amendments are govern by articles 126 and 142, and both give any “region” a veto right, with different qualifications, to reject any amendments even if they are accepted and endorsed by the majority of Iraqi voters; what sort of democracy and federation is this1?.

Moreover, based on previous parliamentary deliberations there is a controversy regarding the validity of article 142 causing serious division among the members of CAC; that prompts CAC, a few days ago, to seek opinion from the Supreme Federal Court to resolve and decide on the matter.

I believe the Court, based on the principle of substantially changing circumstances and availability of compelling new material evidence, would make a decision that facilitates and supports the necessary constitutional amendments; the Court cannot risk to be seen acting against the mounting demand for amending a flawed sovereign law.

Third, I certainly see that there are many articles in the Constitution that must be amended or deleted and new articles could be added, in addition to those relating to petroleum issues. In this regard, it might be necessary to distinguish between “political realism” that is premised on “politics is the art of the possible” (promoted by the political establishment) and the “reality of the intifada” that aims to “make the not-possible possible” (promoted by the “uprising” and substantiated by the swift actions to vote, in the parliament, on laws that are proposed, but shelved, many years ago and measures to combat corruption and kleptocracy): to overcome the mistakes and practices of a decade and a half long with a constitution that becomes imperative to modify or even to replace it.

In this regard, thematic contributions, with specific and consistent proposals, are vital and more effective in the current efforts to amend the Constitution. Hence, professionals, experts and associations, among others, should have their say in the ongoing debate and consultations according to their expertise and area of specialisation; if we do not act now, when will we!!

Fourth; despite the structural importance of the petroleum sector in the Iraqi, imbalance, economy, which is well known to everyone, the term ” petroleum policy” is not mentioned in the constitution, while a long list of many other “policies” have been mentioned and highlighted.

What is even more surprising, and suspicious as well, that petroleum sector was not included in the “exclusive powers of the federal authorities”; this certainly constitutes a very serious flaw, by intention or omission, when preparing and approving the constitution and, thus, must be addressed.

Therefore, due to practical considerations and evidence-based analysis , this contribution aims at presenting some specific proposals exclusively designed to amending articles relating, directly and indirectly, to petroleum  issues (oil and gas), keeping in mind the role of these issues and there, unquestionable, repercussions on the sustainable development of the Iraqi economy.

The following methodology was followed in addressing each constitutional article that I found relevant to the subject matter and thus included in this mission:

First: Specify the article under evaluation in terms of: article number, sub-article(s) and the actual text: in whole or in part;

Second: adopt “text analysis approach” considering the three related factors: purpose of the legislator, the practices and conduct of the implementer (executive) and the sovereignty of the text.

This, by necessity, is the most important, most detailed and longest part in the entire exercise since it deals, basically, with issues relating to basic questions: what, which, why and how.

Third: based on such text-analysis, evidence based and relevant material facts, specific textual proposals are suggested, these can be through amendment or cancellation or substitution or addition of a new article(s).

The results of this work are:

  1. There are nine articles that are directly related to and indirectly impacting petroleum issues; these articles are: 80; 110; 111; 112; 114; 115; 121; 126; 141;
  2. The analysis and evaluation of the above articles resulted in fourteen different proposals.

Details of the analysis, the premises for each proposal and the text of each suggestion are included in a research report written in Arabic, which is circulated widely and reposted on many websites and accessible through many, including, the following:

https://www.akhbaar.org/home/2019/11/265005.html

http://www.tellskuf.com/index.php/mq/86059-nn2411.html

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.

Refineries Blockaded as Protests Continue

By John Lee.

Anti-government protesters reportedly blocked the entrance to the Nassiriya oil refinery on Wednesday.

Sources told Reuters that protesters blocked tankers from entering the refinery, causing fuel shortages across Dhi Qar province.

The refinery has capacity of 30,000 barrels per day (bpd), but has recently been producing only 15,000-20,000 bpd.

Anadolu Agency also reported that protesters have closed the Al-Shanafiyah oil refinery, south of the province of Diwaniya.

The source said that hundreds of protesters prevented oil trucks from entering or exiting the facility.

(Sources: Reuters, Middle East Monitor)

Refineries Blockaded as Protests Continue

By John Lee.

Anti-government protesters reportedly blocked the entrance to the Nassiriya oil refinery on Wednesday.

Sources told Reuters that protesters blocked tankers from entering the refinery, causing fuel shortages across Dhi Qar province.

The refinery has capacity of 30,000 barrels per day (bpd), but has recently been producing only 15,000-20,000 bpd.

Anadolu Agency also reported that protesters have closed the Al-Shanafiyah oil refinery, south of the province of Diwaniya.

The source said that hundreds of protesters prevented oil trucks from entering or exiting the facility.

(Sources: Reuters, Middle East Monitor)

Basra Protests spark Govt Scramble to Create Jobs

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 Cabinet announced Aug. 12 that it has approved a regulation by the Ministry of Labor requiring that 50% of foreign oil company employees working in the country be Iraqis.

The move followed mass demonstrations in Basra calling for better public services, including clean water and working and reliable electricity, and job opportunities for the unemployed in the city. Iraq’s largest oil reserves lie beneath Basra province.

Basra Governor Assaad al-Eidani had on July 31 announced that an agreement had been concluded with the foreign oil companies to secure job opportunities for Basra residents. Days earlier, the Associated Press reported Deputy Governor Dhirgham al-Ajwadi saying that the unemployment rate in Basra, population 4 million, had risen sharply to at least 30%.

On July 13, demonstrators had stormed the headquarters of the Russian oil company LUKOIL at Basra’s West Qurna 2 field, one of the largest, leading workers to pack their belongings. A number of them were evacuated by helicopter.

Click here to read the full story.

(Picture Credit: Ahmed Mahmoud)