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Transcript of Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) teleconference November 25, 2020 POST 3 of 3

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Transcript of  Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) teleconference November 25, 2020


(this is the computer generated transcript.

These persons are teleconferencing, speaking directly into computer screens without prepared speeches.

This transcript is complete without removing text on my part.

For clarity of thought I formatted into statements, rather than leaving the transcript as one monolithic paragraph as the computer displayed.

I apologize to IBBC and esteemed participants for any mis-formatting that might misrepresent what they were conveying)

hadil would you like to say something finally

uh well yes i think um again

i would i highly appreciate the efforts uh behind behind preparing this unique and important paper i think great huge efforts were paid to to draft and prepare this

this paper on the other hand i don't see same efforts uh talking to people to iraqi people about and

we all understand we all went through this uh this paper and

we understand the impact of implementing this paper on the ground

but it's gonna hardly affect the daily life of Iraqis so they need to understand in order to be able to comply with this with the with these terms with the measures that the government is going to take

they need to understand the exact critical situation that Iraq is facing nowadays the future and what is going to carry in case we will in case we continue to move on the same path uh

so there's a big campaign the government is responsible to take this step and talk to people uh to be honest uh for me uh that was the first time i'll go i go that deep and and read the the paper and understand

and i was really shocked with the numbers and the statistics and and all these uh comparison made in 40 years before and now the productivity of a person the the unemployment the all these things so it's really shocking uh information and details and data

iraqi people need to un understand this because without their support this paper will do nothing okay so yeah so it's very important for the
government to take a look at this site okay

thank you very much adiel

lizzie would you like to say something finally uh

i think everything's been covered I think every point that uh yeah uh that i thought of has also been covered

okay thank you and swan uh a sort of recap for your from your point of view

well i think uh i agree with leslie

I mean my colleagues really covered everything

but i would like to suggest what next so maybe maybe we should look into the immediate coming steps that the government should take

i think it should prioritize reform implementation the white paper suggests a wide range of reforms huge and it cannot all be done together

there has to be a priority there has to be a plan on how how to go ahead with it

second i think it's very important to do accosting of the reforms uh to exactly know what it would cost in terms of finance or other implications social implications to and carry each step carry out each step but also what the benefit will be to the state and to the public and to the political system in general uh

the last thing i would like to reiterate again is to the issue of engaging the public and and explaining as hadil also mentioned right now explaining why we need the reform am I not carrying not carrying out the reforms no option

the state is in a crisis and this cannot continue hardy pointed out correctly and saw the desi that oil prices will not improve for many reasons which is or not improve considerably so we should kind of try to find alternatives diversify the economy uh to be able to do that we need to create the private sector

and and to be able to to attract invest so it's it's a kind of a buildup story and we have this has to be explained to to the public very in very clear and honest jobs

thank you

yes i i i really believe that we need to address all those people who are below the poverty line the ones that are beyond health what what what can we do to help them

it's mentioned in the white paper and this is something that really is not only you know relevant to iraq

it's actually everywhere and everyone's concerned about that there are people there in dire straits who are eating the waste paper bins or from the uh the waste and and they're actually drinking polluted water what can we do to help them

and these are things that not just the government has to deal with i mean these are also we as as as as citizens have a social responsibility towards and we just cannot ignore them and i

I totally agree with schwann and actually with everyone's ryan and frank were mentioning what do we do what do we do with the with the with the people who are basically laying off from these companies okay you put them into construction

i think we need to prioritize that and really understand what's the best way to do it

there are some solutions but it's a long-term effect you take one or two state enterprises

and you start working on them especially the ones that are fairly successful and those that are not

there you try to find jobs that satisfy them but but we must talk to them as human beings are not as numbered

we really have to understand what they actually want what do they need it's not their fault that productivity is low the productivity is those because of the environment these people have get their salaries to pay for their kids education for their for their their parents they

they have to support many people and and um as one said we need to look at them not as numbers we need to look at them more as individuals and how we can help them and i think frank alluded to that as well i think these are the crucial issues

thank you harry

thank you everybody on this and i know there have been people putting questions or comments up i can't we can't unfortunately accommodate them all

um but we're just going to go on now to talk about something slightly different which i'd like to uh start with frank if i may uh just to explain what his understanding is of the effects that the new uh president-elect biden might have on iraq and the region um if that's okay

frank thank you yes

thank you uh you know looking the last three days at the appointments that the biden
harris administration is making to some key positions

i think it's fair to say that we're probably looking at um the obama the obama administration's third term

that a lot of the faces that were that held significant positions in uh between 2008 and 2016 are now being appointed uh to significant positions under the biden harris administration

i was in i was in iraq for a year in 2008 2009 right after president obama took over the presidency and

one of the challenges that the u.s embassy was talking about then was holding maliki to his commitments

he had made very detailed public commitments to the sons of anbar that they would be provided with not just government jobs they'd be provided with government security jobs

either in defense or interior this was part of the bargain that was made with the sons of anbar when they agreed to to fight with the americans and with the government of iraq against al qaeda

as everybody knows malaki broke those promises

and we were hoping that the new administration would put pressure on malaki to carry out his public promises to provide the jobs for the sons of van bar uh

i was never sitting at the table i was always at one of the folding chairs against the wall

but if the pressure was put it was insufficient and uh i believe but that's one of the one of the several causes of the rise of isis is that the uh the sunni population

first of all the promises were broken in 2008-2009

and iraqi after winning the election was honored by the government

uh something else one last point about the the biden administration is they seem to be focusing on iran

and iran as you know is an economic collapse

but specifically their currency has uh has depreciated by a huge amount and this has led to large-scale dollars modeling u.s dollar smuggling from iraq into iran

uh it would be interesting to see that if the biden administration reaches out to iran

if the iranian economy stops collapsing politically would be one thing that i'm not able to speak about

but economically it probably will have a favorable effect on the Iraqi economy

thank you

thank you very much uh

lizzy i think you have some views uh i think you've written about it uh particularly perspective

yeah um so i think the main thing to think about is that from uh from the position inside Iraq people see that um the u.s government is going to for one of a better term screw up Iraq um whoever's in the white house um

there is such little faith here among wide percentages of the population um in america's aims and goals and role in Iraq that that you know whether it's trump whether it's biden whether it's someone else

uh you know whoever's in charge america's goals uh in iraq are not necessarily good and this is not just among people who are you know virulently you know you know anti-american

it's again it's among lots of people um so because they've lived through the truth the experience since 2003 and the multiple failings of multiple um american administrations in in iraq um so there is very very little faith

they also recognize that um iraq is not the priority for biden you know there are other countries other conflicts going on um for the bush administration in 2003

it was a priority and became a priority for the uh obama administration with biden on that file in 2011 uh and afterwards

uh after 2011 when they pulled out and

then 2014 when they came back with the global coalition to defeat isis but it essentially took you know uh you know the takeover of a third of the territory and you know a sort of global terrorist group to push iraq back up the priority list in terms of the obama administration

so there is very much an awareness here that that iraq is not going to be the first thing and

people also know that iraq um will what happens in iraq will be probably seen through iran policy um however biden approaches the uh negotiating potential negotiations with iran

and how that plays out will be uh will will massively dictate the approach to iraq

i mean a lot of people are hoping that it just calms down the situation for iraq and Iraq is less to a lesser extent or not sort of you know to a minimal extent possible this theater for the playing out of tensions between and iran and the us on their soil

and and that it's and that the by administration minimizes the extent to which that happens because that's how a lot of people here feel about um the role uh that the way their country is sort of
used um in in um in geopolitics

just a couple of things across my mind

one is that um you know what is america's interest in iraq you know oil is they're self-sufficient oil why would they stay there apart from maybe keeping on iran uh maybe to protect Israel

it's hard to know or maybe to keep the the the gulf on side but it's not quite clear what their interests are it seems that trump has receded and let turkey do a bit of management you know another nato member if you like uh there are other people on the borders that maybe want to keep an eye on that region

i i'm not sure america's more concerned with china than it is with iran

i think i mean i think from a oil and gas company perspective

a lot of people were saying look it's it doesn't really matter again who's in the white house whether we decide to do a deal or not

the main thing will be the economy global economy you know whether we're thinking about where we have assets or or um uh and whether iraq fits into that strategy whether it's a good part of our strategy

um other things like the economy being the main one and and can will we is it a sensible business decision to go into Iraq

and security being another one you know is it a sensible place and there have been a couple of of uh energy sector projects where people have pulled out because it it wasn't safe to operate there um

so these kind of consider considerations are more important to um oil and gas sector operators than who's in the white house okay would anyone else like to uh to comment

swan okay

uh from my view i mean president-elect biden has a long history involved in his involvement with iraq he has traveled to iraq more than 20 times as a chairman a ranking member of the senate foreign relations and then the vice president so he knows iraq well he knows iraq most if not all iraqi leaders so this somehow could be reassuring for them

i mean that he knows iraq and maybe iraq will get enough attention from biden's white house

however i mean it's important to know how he thinks and it's better to understand his his way
his the way he has expressed his feelings and thinking about iraq he describes Iraq

in his 2017 book promised me that as quote arguably the most frustrating issue of my 40 years career in foreign relations and court and then he adds that efforts to promote good governance there meaning iraq has been time-consuming draining and ultimately nearly impossible

nevertheless biden never gave up on Iraq

i agree with lazy i agree with frank I mean iraq will not be the main issue for coming foreign american foreign policies in the middle east

uh there are other priorities it's uh iraq iran's nuclear deal and all the complications with it and then the israeli-palestinian conflict and this has been the main issue for many many decades

but one thing is is very important that

we should the mindset in iraq has to change and this

not only with the united states but the rest with also with the rest of the world is

we should not expect what the united states can give us or or of offer us

it's what we can offer the united states and how attract businesses to engage the er in Iraq and be involved in iraqi economy

because only then and only then er the united states will have interests that it will be more concerned to protect and to maintain

that's my my personal view thank you

thank you

very much um we have a question here from david Bennis

um says will biden continue giving Iraq sanctions waivers for purchasing Iranian gas or electricity or will these no longer be required

anyone hesitate to guess on this  

yes i think it it will um

but there will again be a lot of things will be related to uh how the body administration interacts with iran uh whether it starts uh sanctioned sanctions negotiations again and sorry nuclear deal negotiations again to uh re-reconfigure and rebuild that um and

i think there will continue to be pressure from um the us to uh find other sources so like using internal gas supplies rather than flaring it um to wean iraq off of iranian gas and electricity imports um so

i think i mean this again this doesn't take that doesn't take place immediately because of the time it takes to build and um bring gas processing plants um online

so that doesn't happen immediately but there will continue to be pressure on iraq to uh use its gas rather than bringing in from uh iran and therefore needing sanctions waivers to do so um it will also

like i say it will also depend on whether um what the sanctions on iran are but i don't think biden is going to um is going to take them off uh straight away I

i think they will probably be continue to be in place for leverage during negotiations with iran so i can't see biden um suddenly lifting every single sanction that's been placed uh on iran um and therefore iraq will still need sanctions waivers in order to import gas and electricity from iran

thank you um

i think probably unless anyone's got anything else to add we may have exhausted that subject until um he actually gets in the white house um how do you or hadil did you want to mention anything on this front are you quite happy for us to begin to draw close

i'm fine thank you

okay thank you frank have you uh finished uh a topic that hasn't come up and i i know we're running out of time

but talking hasn't come up is the is
the pressure on the dnr is the uh

as the international reserves of Iraq decrease and

we get the monthly reports they keep going down down and down uh eventually as hadid mentioned we're going to

this is going to put pressure uh for a depreciation of loss of value of the dinar and just  uh

just to be provocative that might be a good thing the dinar has was deliberately appreciated increased in value by almost 20 percent

it has made non-oil exports from Iraq uncompetitive

it has led to a huge amount of imports in to iraq because the the foreign products are so cheap

maybe a possible reaction to the fiscal constraint is to devalue the dnr so that every u.s dollar of oil sales will buy more dna which will allow the payment of the salaries the pensions and the other infrastructure

so i i'm wondering whether the the dnr should be discussed as well

thank you that's that's a very good point frank

um my only concern about hyperinflation is that i mean look what happened to lebanon as a specific example

there's the official rate and then

there's a banking rate and then

there's the uh transfer rate

and it's really basically almost seven eight times uh difference in values and

my concern is that if you were in a strong position i totally agree with you once you know chibiby was the head of the central bank i asked him this question

why are you keeping the deal so at such a high level it didn't make sense to me and when you were in a strong position you were able to reduce the rates

but now in this current position people will i would be afraid of a run on the dnr because if they see a fall in dnr what will happen is you you just don't know what the outcome is you might not be able to control it

i totally agree with the philosophy of keeping the dnr lower

but when is the right time to move it if you do it now

my question is that questions to you frank

what do you think the outcome would be uh do you think it's going to collapse

do you think it's just going to stabilize at a certain level uh

personally there's too much uncertainty

there's a question here from david bennez again he says the

imf has essentially given baghdad the choice of either cutting public salaries or devaluing the iraqi dino uh

which does the panel think more likely

maybe sean you'd like to add that in as well

yes i read that question i think it's a very good and important question but honestly the situation here is not either or

i mean we cannot either cut the salaries reduce salaries or de-evaluate the dinner

I think the solution the best solution would be to a combination of all these

maybe try to cut the salaries but not say per individual salary but try to incentivize those that would like to take long term leaves or take less working hours

de-evaluate the dnr maybe in a controlled way

but also protect the rights and [Music] protect those groups that have money in the banks

iraqi dinars in the banks or those contractors that have not been paid who should be paid by iraqi dinars for so many longs for so many years back since so many years back

we should not reward them by being patient with the government and not claiming that by cutting down the their payments you know we have to protect these these groups of people

control the evaluation is it seems it's unavoidable uh incentive incentives for public sector employees to take leave long leaves or less working hours

you know sort a combination of all these factors can can increased revenue can help the government to to bypass this crisis hopefully safely okay so a little bit of flexibility there with the dnr could be handy

i think probably we're going to call this marathon to an end i'd like to thank everybody for contributing

hadil hassan thank you so much for your contribution

lizzie porter thank you very much

thank you very much indeed frank as always early up in america thank you for your wisdom and input

and finally schwann for helping organize this panel and your government wisdom thank you

thanks to all the participants really for their patience and thank you appreciate all who are with us today thank you just to say that this is will be available on the ibbc website if you want to view it several times or share it with your colleagues you're welcome to do so and um if anyone's interested in ibvc then uh you know we're open to to membership

so uh look forward to hearing from anybody and thank you all once again until the next time thank you bye
thank you ashley
thank you
thank you Ashley

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