Karbala


Private Sector Development Strategy in Karbala

UNDP is helping to launch the Private Sector Development Strategy in Karbala

The Governorate of Karbala in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and support of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) organized a conference to roll out the Holly Karbala Private Sector Development Strategy (2018-2030) in Karbala province.

The Holly Karbala Private Sector Development Strategy (2018-2030) (HKPSDS) will support the diversification of the economy as one of the most important keys for the economic growth in Karbala. This new strategy will help create jobs and promote growth in the local economy.

UNDP, and the Governorate of Karbala, Provincial Council, Holy Shrines, private sector and academia, have been developing the HKPSDS for the province. Representatives of private sector companies, associations, academics, Directors of public departments, media and other UN agencies as well as officials from the local authority attended the conference.

The Governor of Karbala, Mr. Aqeel Al-Turaihi, said in his speech during the conference:

“The Private Sector Development Strategy will be a center of excellence of the private sector development among the local governorates, and Holy Karbala Government will provide full support to the implementation of this strategy”.

UNDP Deputy Country Director Mr. Gerardo Noto said:

The implementation of this strategy will contribute significantly to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). In particular SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), leading to achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation.

“It will also help to achieve SDG 17 (Partnerships for Goal) to encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships”.

The HKPSDS is an adaptation to the local context of the PSDS Iraq 2014 – 2030. It is designed to address the challenges identified and to achieve the objectives set on the national level in the PSDS Iraq (2014-2030) within Karbala Province and is intended to utilize the resources and opportunities available in the province, to achieve the overarching development objectives of revitalizing and strengthening the local private sector and improve the business environment, to contribute to local economic growth, sustainable development and job creation.

As the first one of its kind to be implemented in the local governorates of Iraq, The PSDS envisages achieving, by 2030, the vision of “Developing a viable, competitive, local private sector, led by the business community that contributes to the local economy, job creation and sustainable local development in partnership between the Local Government of Karbala Governorate and the local private sector.

(Source: UNDP)

$8m Project to plant 70,000 Date Palms

By John Lee.

An Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim foundation is reportedly planning to plant a total of 70,000 date palms south of Baghdad.

According to Reuters, it has already planted 16,000 date trees outside Karbala [Kerbala].

The scheme is backed by a state loan of IQD 10 billion ($8.43 million).

(Source: Reuters)

Lake Milh dries up in sign of Worse to come

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

Iraq’s favorite lake dries up in sign of worse to come

Karbala’s Lake Milh hasn’t seen a lot of visitors in the last few years. Once a popular picnic destination for Karbala residents, the lake’s water has dwindled, leaving most of it a desert with nothing but derelict fishing boats and dead animals.

The second-largest lake in Iraq, Lake Milh is also known as Lake Razzaza; it lies west of Karbala and southwest of Baghdad. It is fed by the Euphrates River as well as rainfall and groundwater sources. Over the last decade, however, it has been drying up.

Saeed Ali, a fish vendor who lives near the lake, told Al-Monitor, “The lake was an important source of fish in the ’80s and ’90s. But with time, it has become a mere pond that will one day dry out completely if the issue is not addressed.”

Furat al-Tamimi, head of the parliament’s Committee for Agriculture, Water and Marshlands, said the situation requires immediate attention. He told Al-Monitor, “The Ministry of Water Resources and the committee are informed of the situation at Lake Milh. We are tracking the declining water levels at the lake with great concern. This is also happening in many other lakes and rivers.”

Tamimi said the lake’s falling levels are related to the drought that has plagued Iraq since 2017; some estimate the drought will continue until 2026. But there are no plans to restore the lake, said Tamimi, a deputy from Ammar Hakim’s Hikmat movement. He said a number of civil society activists and specialists on natural resources in Karbala province have criticized the “government’s idleness over the water crisis in Lake Milh,” with some activists working together on a media campaign to draw the world’s attention to the lake.

Engineer Aoun Thyab, the most senior member of the advisory board of the Ministry of Water Resources, said the problem is much more complicated. “Addressing this problem is not so simple,” Thyab told Al-Monitor. “Protests and calls on environmental groups won’t solve it because the problem is related to internal and regional policies involving the water sector, as well as the rain and streams that flow from the desert.”

Thyab said the Ministry of Water Resources dropped Lake Milh entirely from its water supply calculations in a 2015 strategic study. “As such, Lake Milh is no longer seen as useful for irrigation, water storage or fish farming.”

He said Lake Milh’s levels decreased from 34 meters (112 feet) above sea level to 20 meters (66 feet) with the drought. “This was due to a number of overwhelming factors, especially the decrease in the Euphrates River, which is the lake’s inflow, because of the Turkish dams that reduced Iraq’s water share. Add to this the scarcer rainfall in recent years and the depletion of streams that flow from the desert around the lake.”

He said, “Lake Milh has also seen higher evaporation levels, which increased salinity, making it effectively impossible for fish to inhabit the lake.” Thyab said that in the 1990s the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture experimented with a project to farm sea fish but that project proved to be a failure. “It is safe to say that the lake is dead.”

Thyab’s remarks indicate that it would be next to impossible to restore Lake Milh as a tourist attraction whose beautiful flora and fauna once brought foreign and Iraqi tourists from every province.

Karbala has also suffered greatly from the armed conflicts in the last decade, most recently when armed groups who fought against the Iraqi state used it as a base. The city of Karbala’s practice of draining polluted water into the lake has also contributed to the problem.

But there is hope for the lake yet. In January, the Iraqi National Investment Commission (NIC) unveiled a $25 million investment project to rehabilitate and develop both Lake Milh and al-Habbaniya, a lake linked to Milh by the narrow Sin-Al-Thibban Canal.

The project includes building a tourist attraction over approximately 4,000 acres and overhauling the existing hotels and 200 apartments to modern standards, as well as a full amusement park, a marina, world-class restaurants and a media center.

The locals worry that the efforts come too late to save the lake. Local engineer Fayez Eisa, who oversees the area’s anti-desertification project, told Al-Monitor, “Tired of dealing with the bureaucratic red tape on contracts and permits, the Karbala Holy Shrine administration has established a green belt around 2000 dunams (494 acres) of desert land, where they dug dozens of wells to provide water to the farming areas around Lake Milh.”

Lakes such as Milh represent essential natural reservoirs in efforts to fight the drought that haunts Iraq’s agriculture sector. Cooperation with neighboring countries to restore and protect them will be crucial to the region’s survival.

(Picture credit: عمر سيروان)

Iraqi Depositors ‘Trapped’ In Iranian Banking System

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 Abbas Sarhan.

The Iranian banking system was seen as an attractive alternative to Iraq’s shaky financial institutions. But a recent, drastic devaluation in the Iranian rial means Iraqi money is stuck over the border.

Depositing money in Iranian banks has been popular in Iraq since around 2012, and even more so since 2014, and the security crisis caused by the extremist group known as the Islamic State.

In the southern city of Karbala, it was a popular move for people who had sold property, especially after the decline of prices in the Iraqi real estate market since June 2014 and the beginning of the security crisis.

But in fact, small and mid-sized Iraqi investors have been putting money into Iranian banks since 2012, when the Iranian authorities significantly increased the interest rate on savings in a bid to get more currency flowing into their sanctioned nation.

Iraqi investors were encouraged to deposit cash in Iran. Iraqis could change their money into Iranian rials, then deposit them with bank officers based in Karbala or Najaf, without ever having to leave home.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis took up the offer, says Mohammed Abbas, one of the locals who also did so: He put US$500,000 in Iranian banks.

“It was too tempting for anyone with a small or medium sized deposit,” he explains. “Iraqis were afraid to invest their money in Iraq and there are really not many other opportunities for investment.” Abbas says that in the first three years he made good money off his deposits and he used the rials on his frequent trips to Iran.

However the situation has since deteriorated badly. The Iranian rial has recently lost a lot of value and even those Iraqis who had done well with the interest rates on their money, saw that extra cash wiped out. Now, Abbas says, Iraqi money is trapped in Iran. Depositors cannot withdraw their deposits for fear of wiping out half the value so they leave it there in the hope that the Iranian authorities may be able to revalue their own currency.

However the Iranian authorities appear to only have been able to take limited steps. In April this year, Iranians arrested as many as 90 foreign exchange traders, accusing them of raising the price of foreign currencies against the rial, and suspended activities in ten foreign exchange bureaus. They also tried to set the exchange rate more favourably.

However these measures have not worked and thousands of Iraqis who deposited savings over the border remain frustrated. Anybody who does want to withdraw their cash needs to change the rial for dollars first. Iraqis must change their money on the black market.

Iranian banks only exchange dollars in specific situations and then only to Iranians. Even though the Iranian authorities have tried to set the exchange rate against the US dollar there, the black market exchange rate puts the dollar at significantly higher rates. Which still leaves Iraqi depositors in a bad way.

Iraqi economist Abdul-Hussein al-Rumi says there’s not much anyone can really do. That is the risk that Iraqi investors were taking and Iran’s economy and currency is unlikely to be able to withstand the new round of US sanctions.

Instead of taking their money out of Iran, al-Rumi suggests withdrawing the deposits, buying Iranian goods over the border and then selling them on the Iraqi market to try and reduce their losses and to get out of the Iranian banking system.

6 New Investment Opportunities in Iraq

By John Lee.

The National Investment Commission (NIC) has announced six new investment opportunities in Iraq:

  1. New Housing Compounds, Ministry of Water Resources
  2. Lime plant in Karbala, Iraqi Cement State Company
  3. Caustic/chlorine plant in Khor al-Zubair, State Company for Petrochemical Industries
  4. Industrial and medical gases, Al-Zawraa State Company
  5. Chlorine plant in Muthanna, General Company for Mining Industries
  6. Paper sack production, Iraqi Cement State Company

(Source: National Investment Commission)

(Picture: Business opportunity word cloud, from ibreakstock/Shutterstock)

FIFA Lifts Ban on Iraq Hosting Int’l Matches

By John Lee.

Soccer’s governing body FIFA has lifted its three-decade ban on Iraq hosting international football.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino is quoted as saying that this will allow international matches to be played in Erbil, Basra (pictured) and Karbala, where the security situation was considered to be “stable“, but not yet in Baghdad.

Iraq will host Qatar and Syria for a friendly tournament starting on March 21 in Basra.

(Sources: AFP, Reuters)

Rotork to supply Karbala Refinery Project

By John Lee.

British-based engineering company Rotork is to supply the Karbala Refinery project in Iraq.

According to a press release from the company, Rotork will provide large quantities of IQ3 non-intrusive intelligent electric valve actuators, designed specifically for automated flow control systems in hazardous environments.

Due to open in 2020, the State Company of Oil Projects’ (SCOP) Karbala Refinery will have a refining capacity of 140,000 barrels of crude oil per day (bpd). Production will meet the latest international standards, serving the growing domestic demand for oil in Iraq and reducing the current level of refined product imports.

(Source: Rotork)

4 Metropolitan Transport Opportunities in Iraq

By John Lee.

Iraq’s National Investment Commission (NIC) has included four subway and metropolitan rail projects in its list of major strategic projects to be presented during the Kuwait International Conference for Iraq Reconstruction, to be held in Kuwait from 12th to 14th February:

1. Baghdad Metro

The project consist of two lines with total length of 46km. it has 47 station, two locomotive garages on both lines, and three power transferring stations.

  • The first line (23km 25 station) starts from the main locomotive garage north east of Baghdad through (10*10) project location –previously, to Al Sadir city crossing Al Thawra St. heading to Baghdad center to Al Jimhoriya St. to its final destination Antar Sq.
  • The second line (23km 22 stations) starts from south east of Baghdad near Aqaba Bin Nafee Sq. –Sadoon St. City center, crossing the Tigris to reach Al Faris Al Arabi Sq. forming two branches, one to Al Mansoor and the other to Al Bayaa where the second locomotive garage is located.
  • The project can provide comfortable and efficient transportation services to 250 thousand passenger/h in all stations.
  • Ministry of Transportation contracted a number of specialized consulting companies in the mid-seventies to conduct a study regarding Mass Transit that resulted to using tracks according to the feasible study done in 1978 (Feasibility study and Preliminary Design of an integrated Transport System within the City of Baghdad)
  • A contract was signed with Sestra Co. (French), one of the specialized international companies, to conduct the initial designs and the tender documents under the title (Technical, Legal and Contractual Requirement for Baghdad Metro Project)
  • The estimated cost of the project including detailed designs and execution of the two lines excluding extensions is €5.7b which is roughly $6b according to the French Co. feasible study adding to that $2b for acquisitions, total cost will be $8b. EPC document was based on turnkey delivery system.

2. Baghdad Mono Rail

A vital project with good financial revenues, prepared by French Alstom Co.

  • Estimated cost: $ 1.5b
  • Duration: 5 years
  • Project purpose: to solve traffic jams and improve services in Baghdad.
  • Phases, locations, implementation lines in Baghdad
  • Phase one: 15.5 km, Kadhmiya-Al Sadir City-Shaab, with 12 internal station and crossing the Tigris
  • Phase two: 4.45km, the International Station in Alawi-Utaifiya with two internal stations.

3. Mono Rail in Holy Karbala Province

This project is considered to be one of the major strategic projects in Holy Karbala Province for its importance in resolving the transportation problem of visitors coming to the Holy city. The project starts from the station Bada’at Aswadin Al-Husainiya District and going toward the Baghdad road taking the middle path of the main road toward Bab Twerej and passing through Al-Salam bridge and then through Al-Ibrahimiya station.

  • Length:18 km/ dual line/ 20 passengers stations.
  • Estimated cost: 450 million dollars.

4. Basra Metro

This project is considered to be one of the major strategic projects in Basra Province for its importance in resolving the transportation problem.

  • The metro contains 5 main lines with 35 main and branch lines
  • First line: Sa’ad square-Basra University-can be extended to the city center.
  • Second line: sa’ad square-Zubair-can be extended to Safwan
  • Third line: Sa’ad-Al-Ashar-Shalamja
  • Fourth line: Sa’ad square-Abu Al-Khaseeb-Faw
  • Fifth line: Sa’ad square-14th July street-presidential palaces.

The full 46-page document can be downloaded here.

(Source: NIC)

Iran Cancels Arbaeen Flights to Iraq Due to Dust Storms

The rising level of dust pollution in Iraq forced Iranian airlines to cancel their flights to the Arab country’s cities of Baghdad and Najaf ahead of Arbaeen, the 40th day after the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shiite Imam.

With dust clouds reducing visibility, Iranian flights heading to Baghdad and Najaf were grounded or delayed for a second straight day on Tuesday, Iranian media reported.

Officials at Imam Khomeini International Airport said the pilgrims traveling to Iraq for Arbaeen were required to call “199” and get the necessary information before heading to the airport.

Authorities at Najaf and Baghdad airports have also canceled all the flights because of the wind-blown dust caused by sandstorms in the Arab country.

A large group of Iranian pilgrims, wearing face masks, are stranded in airports and at Iran-Iraq joint border crossings.

Each year, a huge crowd of Shiite Muslims attend the religious commemoration of Arbaeen, by marching toward the holy city of Karbala, Iraq, which hosts the holy shrine of Imam Hussein (AS).

During the Arbaeen event, volunteers set up thousands of congregation halls and pavilions in Najaf and Karbala and along the road between them to offer services for the travelers and pilgrims.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)