2019 – (Another) Key Year for Iraq

The past year has seen many developments in Iraq, including the successful completion of parliamentary elections (admittedly with a low participation of voters), the installation of a new cabinet (with a few posts still to be filled), and a considerably higher oil price than in the previous year (although that has fallen back considerably towards the end of the year).

Protests over the summer have highlighted unemployment, corruption, shortages of electricity, and problems in the delivery of basic services.

In the year to come, the new government of Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi must focus on tackling these problems as a matter of urgency, while at the same time redoubling its efforts to rebuild the areas previously devastated by the Islamic State group.

There’s a lot of work to be done, but there are several factors at the moment pushing Iraq towards a favourable outcome: Despite the current low oil prices, Iraq’s oil production is at record highs; the new government appears highly motivated and seems to know it has a limited time to effect change; and international companies and institutions are keen to get involved.

If managed properly, this year could be the start of a real boom period for Iraq. The nearly ten-percent increase in the readership of Iraq Business News over the past year is just one indicator that more people are taking an interest in Iraq and the opportunities to be found there.

As we publish our first newsletter of the new year, we’d like to say a special word of thanks to all of our contributors, including our panel of Expert Bloggers, who have given us the benefit of their wisdom and observations over the past twelve months:

We look forward to reading more from them in the coming year.

We’d also like to thank all our readers and well-wishers for making Iraq Business News the must-read publication for everyone with an interest in Iraq, and we ask you to please support our valued advertisers, who make all of this possible.

It is also important to remember two Iraq-focussed charities that are doing amazing and much-needed work in the country:

Any donations made to them will make a big difference to the lives of so many vulnerable people in Iraq.

With another challenging but potentially rewarding year to come, Iraq Business News will be with you every step of the way, wishing all of you a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2019.

Poultry Industry “Booming” in Kurdistan

By John Lee.

Iraqi Kurdistan poultry industry is reported to have dramatically increased over the last five years.

Haider Farhan, head of Kurdistan Region’s poultry industry high council, told Rudaw that there are now 2,000 chicken farms in the Kurdistan Region, producing nearly 190 tons of meat annually.

More here.

(Source: Rudaw)

Provincial Elections are Cancelled Again

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Mustafa Habib.

Drama On Iraq’s Councils After Provincial Elections Are Cancelled Again

Conflict at federal level is complicating local politics too. Provincial elections have not been held for five years and council leadership no longer reflects the country’s new political reality.

In the weeks before the end of the year, Iraq’s provincial councillors saw plenty of drama. There were attempted dismissals of various governors, actual dismissals and political coups and in-fighting among state-level politicians.

In mid-December, a new governor was chosen for Baghdad by councillors representing parties at federal level. But then other councillors, representing opposition parties at federal level, chose a completely different new governor.

Members of two groups – the Sairoun alliance led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the National Wisdom party, led by another cleric, Ammar al-Hakim – chose the first new governor. Then, provincial councillors from the parties that oppose those two groups stepped in and selected another candidate from their own ranks instead.

At this stage, the Iraqi president, Barham Saleh, intervened, refusing to ratify either candidate and referring the matter to the courts.

A similar situation arose in Basra where provincial council members who tried to elect a new governor were prevented from doing so by protestors outside the council buildings, who supported the sitting governor. The involvement of security staff meant that a vote could not be held. And in Najaf, the sitting governor there was also dismissed. More firings are expected in other Iraqi provinces too.

Why the drama? Because the country has not held provincial elections since 2013 and in many areas, the current provincial council does not reflect the contemporary political realities brought about by federal elections last year.

By rights, provincial elections to select local councillors should have been held in 2017. However the ongoing security crisis and the fight against the extremist group known as the Islamic State meant this was impossible. The federal government then decided to combine provincial elections with federal ones, to be held in May 2018, but again failed to do this.

The next date for the provincial elections was supposed to be December 22, 2018, but yet again the federal government – this time the new one headed by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi – decided not to hold them. A new date was not set and election authorities say it will be too difficult to hold provincial elections in 2019.

The Independent High Electoral Commission, or IHEC, has not been working properly for the past few months because, ever since the May 2018 federal elections, there have been all sorts of other concerns, explains Hazem al-Rudaini, a member of IHEC.

“The debate about the integrity of the federal elections, the various appeals and the recounts overseen by a judicial authority,” al-Rudaini listed the reasons. “All of this has impacted on the Commission’s work and makes it impossible to hold the provincial elections anytime in the coming six months at least.”

Amendments to the laws and rules around provincial elections are being discussed by IHEC and relevant federal authorities and politicians, al-Rudaini said, but “all that will take time”.

In fact, senior members of IHEC have been summoned to parliament to discuss this issue because some of the provincial appointments are now unconstitutional – for example, a governor cannot be a sitting MP at the same time yet some are. Additionally, the provincial councils hardly reflect the outcome of the federal elections, which saw the al-Sadr-backed Sairoun alliance win the most votes. In fact, that is part of what has caused the recent problems: The winning political parties are forcing through new alliances at provincial level, that allow them to remove the sitting governors who belong to other now-less-popular parties.

“We refuse to allow the current provincial councils to carry on working,” Rami al-Sukaini, an MP for the Sairoun alliance, told NIQASH. “There are proposals now that allow them to keep working for the next six months, and others to remove them and give parliament the power of supervise provincial councils, until provincial elections can be held.”

Provincial Elections are Cancelled Again

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Mustafa Habib.

Drama On Iraq’s Councils After Provincial Elections Are Cancelled Again

Conflict at federal level is complicating local politics too. Provincial elections have not been held for five years and council leadership no longer reflects the country’s new political reality.

In the weeks before the end of the year, Iraq’s provincial councillors saw plenty of drama. There were attempted dismissals of various governors, actual dismissals and political coups and in-fighting among state-level politicians.

In mid-December, a new governor was chosen for Baghdad by councillors representing parties at federal level. But then other councillors, representing opposition parties at federal level, chose a completely different new governor.

Members of two groups – the Sairoun alliance led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the National Wisdom party, led by another cleric, Ammar al-Hakim – chose the first new governor. Then, provincial councillors from the parties that oppose those two groups stepped in and selected another candidate from their own ranks instead.

At this stage, the Iraqi president, Barham Saleh, intervened, refusing to ratify either candidate and referring the matter to the courts.

A similar situation arose in Basra where provincial council members who tried to elect a new governor were prevented from doing so by protestors outside the council buildings, who supported the sitting governor. The involvement of security staff meant that a vote could not be held. And in Najaf, the sitting governor there was also dismissed. More firings are expected in other Iraqi provinces too.

Why the drama? Because the country has not held provincial elections since 2013 and in many areas, the current provincial council does not reflect the contemporary political realities brought about by federal elections last year.

By rights, provincial elections to select local councillors should have been held in 2017. However the ongoing security crisis and the fight against the extremist group known as the Islamic State meant this was impossible. The federal government then decided to combine provincial elections with federal ones, to be held in May 2018, but again failed to do this.

The next date for the provincial elections was supposed to be December 22, 2018, but yet again the federal government – this time the new one headed by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi – decided not to hold them. A new date was not set and election authorities say it will be too difficult to hold provincial elections in 2019.

The Independent High Electoral Commission, or IHEC, has not been working properly for the past few months because, ever since the May 2018 federal elections, there have been all sorts of other concerns, explains Hazem al-Rudaini, a member of IHEC.

“The debate about the integrity of the federal elections, the various appeals and the recounts overseen by a judicial authority,” al-Rudaini listed the reasons. “All of this has impacted on the Commission’s work and makes it impossible to hold the provincial elections anytime in the coming six months at least.”

Amendments to the laws and rules around provincial elections are being discussed by IHEC and relevant federal authorities and politicians, al-Rudaini said, but “all that will take time”.

In fact, senior members of IHEC have been summoned to parliament to discuss this issue because some of the provincial appointments are now unconstitutional – for example, a governor cannot be a sitting MP at the same time yet some are. Additionally, the provincial councils hardly reflect the outcome of the federal elections, which saw the al-Sadr-backed Sairoun alliance win the most votes. In fact, that is part of what has caused the recent problems: The winning political parties are forcing through new alliances at provincial level, that allow them to remove the sitting governors who belong to other now-less-popular parties.

“We refuse to allow the current provincial councils to carry on working,” Rami al-Sukaini, an MP for the Sairoun alliance, told NIQASH. “There are proposals now that allow them to keep working for the next six months, and others to remove them and give parliament the power of supervise provincial councils, until provincial elections can be held.”

Iraq, Jordan to Ease Trade, Finalise Plans for Oil Pipeline

By John Lee.

Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi and Jordan’s Prime Minister Dr. Omar Razzaz have agreed a series of measures to increase cooperation between the two countries.

Following a meeting at the weekend, they announced that, among other steps, they will finalize the framework agreement for the Iraqi-Jordanian pipeline which will run from Basra through Haditha to Aqaba in the first quarter of 2019.

The full (unedited) list of measures outlined in their joint statement is shown below:

In the transport sector:

  • Opening the Jordanian-Iraqi border crossings (Al Karama-Trebil) in front of the (door to door) traffic to start the journey of goods that are perishable on 2-2-2019 and include all types of goods thereafter.
  • Granting facilities for imported Iraqi goods via Aqaba, whose final destination is Iraq, a discount of 75% of the fees charged by Aqaba Economic Authority.
  • Make an Agreement between the Royal Jordanian and Iraqi Aviation for mutual cooperation in various fields: (Code share).
  • Training and cooperation in all areas of aviation and air transport.

In the industry and trade sector:

  • Activating the Iraqi Cabinet decision for the year 2017 exempting a number of Jordanian goods from customs starting from 2-2-2019.
  • The two councils of the two countries decided to allocate the agreed land on the Iraqi-Jordanian border to reach a depth of 2 km on the two sides of the border and a length of 6 km for the Iraqi-Jordanian Company. By 2-2-2019, in preparation for the company’s presentation of the industrial zone to the private sector for operation and management on the basis of BOT.

In the financial sector:

  • Forming a technical and financial legal committee between the two sides to develop solutions to the outstanding financial files between the two countries.

In the energy sector:

  • The agreement was reached on the Jordanian-Iraqi electricity link through the network of interconnection, where the memorandum of understanding was signed in the presence of the prime ministers, in which the parties agreed to take the necessary measures to accelerate the exchange of electrical energy between the two parties through direct electrical connection to the electricity networks of Iraq and Jordan.
  • It was agreed to finalize the framework agreement for the Iraqi-Jordanian pipeline which will extend from Basra through Haditha to Aqaba in the first quarter of 2019
  • It was agreed that the technical committees will arrive to determine the details of transportation and pricing for the export of Iraqi crude oil to Jordan before 2-2-2019.

In the agriculture sector:

  • Training in the fields of optimal use of water in the fields of aquaculture, water harvesting, seed propagation, biological control, the use of environmentally friendly pesticides and the training of Iraqi environmental police.

In the communications and IT sector:

  • It was agreed to pass the Iraqi Internet capacity from Jordan in 2019 to support Iraq build the infrastructure.
  • It was agreed on transport Jordan’s experiences in the field of the financial technology to brothers in Iraq.

(Source: Media Office of the Iraqi Prime Minister)

December Oil Exports: Volume Up, Revenue Down

By John Lee.

Iraq’s Ministry of Oil has announced interim oil exports for December of 115,517,974 barrels, giving an average for the month of 3.726 million barrels per day (bpd), a increase from the 3.377 bpd exported in November.

These exports from the oilfields in central and southern Iraq amounted to 112,450,367 barrels, while exports by the North Oil Company amounted to 3,067,607 barrels.

Revenues for the month were $6.100 billion at an average price of $52.803 per barrel.

November export figures can be found here.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)

Hopes that Turkey will Lift Ban Sulaymaniyah Flights

By John Lee.

Authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan are said to be hopeful that a meeting later this month between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Iraqi President Barham Salih will lead to Turkey lifting its ban on international flights crossing its airspace to land at Sulaymaniyah Airport (pictured).

According to a report from Ahval News, Turkey imposed the ban on flights to Sulaymaniyah and Erbil in September 2017 after the region voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence, but later lifted the ban on flights to Erbil, as the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which controls that part of the region, is “closer politically” to Erdoğan’s government.

More here.

(Source: Ahval News)

New Career Opportunities in Iraq

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)