Feb 12, 2018
KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwaiti and non-Kuwaiti businessmen seeking to invest in Iraq are seeking guarantees and overcoming bureaucratic obstacles to inject investment into a country that has suffered long periods of political, economic and security instability, Islamic country".
Kuwait is hosting an international conference for the reconstruction of Iraq starting on Monday and lasts for three days, amid the aspiration of the Iraqi and Kuwaiti sides to turn the page of the past and open a new page based on mutual interests and good neighborliness. More than 1,800 companies and 2,000 economic figures representing some 50 countries are expected to participate in the economic event of the conference under the slogan Invest in Iraq. The National Investment Authority of Iraq will offer 157 investment opportunities to foreign investors from all over the world. The Kuwaiti companies participated in the conference on Sunday in a symposium at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Kuwait, which was attended by Sami Araji, head of the National Investment Commission in Iraq, and officials from the World Bank, where the focus is on the guarantees provided by Iraq to foreign investors and also some of the problems suffered by Investors there, especially the bureaucracy.
Abdulwahab Al Wazzan, Deputy Chairman of Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the Kuwaiti private sector is looking forward to having clear feasibility studies and guarantees for investment in Iraq, indicating that Kuwaiti companies can participate in all fields of investment in Iraq.
He added that the private sector always looks for «because there are guarantees that give stability in the investment process .. Every investment needs stability. You can not afford to invest without any rest in how you build and build and then continue. This is the right way, these are the fundamentals on which to build your investment in Iraq. "
He added that several entities such as the World Bank, the Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation and Kuwait Fund for Development would be effective in providing guarantees for investment in Iraq. But the cover must be at the level of countries to encourage investors ... on the security side and the political side and (side) associated with the exit and entry of funds and taxes ».
Kuwaiti investors who invested in Iraq in the 1980s suffered many losses after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the rupture that took place between the two countries until 2003.
Sami al-Araji said that his country is modern in the market economy, explaining that the body he heads coordinates, Foreign investors but «do not have a magic wand. "They will not be considered as equals, but they will seek to pursue their grievances and overcome their obstacles. "Today, Iraq has a" rare opportunity ... the world is sympathetic to us "and wants Iraq to achieve civil peace and to invest its resources for the benefit of its people. "We should not waste this opportunity" and be invested in rebuilding Iraq in all sectors.
Araji said that the most important investment guarantees in Iraq are the Iraqi investment law, Iraq's acceptance of international arbitration decisions, "wherever it is" in investment issues, in addition to the agreements signed between Kuwait and Iraq on investment guarantees.
At the seminar, a Kuwaiti investor working in Iraq for 14 years said he was complaining about the government bureaucracy that has been preventing him for six months now from receiving $ 5 million in receivables from the Iraqi government. But stressed that he would continue to invest in Iraq "because this is our duty to our brothers in Iraq." Ziad Badr, head of the World Bank's International Finance Corporation mission in Iraq, said that the Bank, with its multiple subsidiaries, provides various and effective guarantees for investment in Iraq, saying that the country has many advantages, including strong infrastructure, The existence of restrictions on foreign currency transfers, in addition to linking the Iraqi dinar to the US dollar.
Badr, whose institution is a World Bank Group's private arm, is working with the private sector that Iraq remains one of the countries with the greatest return on investment in the world.
"I do not think that anywhere in the world there are such opportunities for investment," he said. "Our investments in Iraq of $ 1.2 billion are not worthless investment." He added that his organization will invest $ 250 million in the Iraqi telecommunications sector during the coming period.
Iraq, OPEC's second largest oil producer, has already intensified its calls for investors around the world. In particular, he intends to rely on his oil reserves, which have not yet been fully exploited.
During the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said the massive reconstruction project would cost $ 100 billion, half of the country's gross domestic product. "This is a huge amount of money, and we know very well that we can not fund it with our budget," which was affected by lower crude oil prices and long war.
Peter Hawkins, a UNICEF representative for the United Nations Children's Fund in Iraq, said the task was enormous. "If everyone concentrates on Mosul, the second largest city in the country and the capital of the caliphate, whose historical heart has become a hill of ruins," he added, "we should not forget that other provinces such as Anbar, Diyala and Salahaddin also suffered from wars.
"Housing is the main element because 19 percent of the total destruction of the country has taken place in this sector," said Irfan Ali, director of the United Nations Housing Program in Iraq. More than 2.6 million people are still displaced.
More than 26,000 homes, including more than 17,000 in Mosul, have been destroyed or severely damaged, according to the United Nations Operational Program on Applied Satellite Research (UNOSAT).
Hawkins pointed out that at a time of war in the north, the south of the country has large cuts in the budget, saying, "There are some schools receive students for two or three times" per day. In order to build, rehabilitate and stimulate "economic growth and services," according to Hawkins, the private sector should be attracted to give Iraqis, who live for about a quarter of them on less than $ 2 a day, access to "health, education, social security and water resources."
He added that Kuwait and the World Bank had made pledges to reassure the private sector, which is wary of investing in the country ranked tenth in the global corruption list, that a "reconstruction data platform was put in place to ensure transparency and accountability."
He also said priority in the Kuwait conference will be «to develop plans and analyzes and find solutions» so that the country «to rebuild its services and way of life». "It is very vital to keep Iraq at the top of the agenda of the international community. Then comes the financial side ».
He stressed that "investment in services, including education, will benefit the country today in an amazing way, while not doing so would be tragic ... because the biggest danger is" the lost generation that can not contribute to the economy or security in Iraq, when Becomes adult. "
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