Preparations are underway to hold an investment fair in Iraq that will bring together a large number of Iraqi and foreign investment companies to discuss ways to overcome investment hurdles in the country, an Iraqi official told Diyaruna Friday (August 3rd).
Slated for December 5th and 6th, the fair will be dedicated to the reconstruction of provinces liberated from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), said Mustafa al-Hiti, who heads the Reconstruction Fund for Areas Affected by Terroristic Operations (REFAATO).
Held under the title "A Leap Forward", the fair -- which will be held at the Babylon Hotel in Baghdad -- will not be a "traditional investment conference", he said.
"We aspire to bring together a large number of Iraqi and foreign investment companies with national agencies and representatives of liberated provinces," he told Diyaruna.
"We will not only ask these companies to present themselves and their capabilities and to look at the different projects that are available for investment as in previous conferences," he said, "but we will also listen to them."
"We want these companies to provide their perspectives on the obstacles standing in the way of their seizing investment opportunities [in Iraq], and on the challenges of the Iraqi market," said al-Hiti.
The main objective of the investment fair is to come up with decisions that will lead to the amendment of some of the regulations and legal provisions that companies see as impeding their work, he said.
"We are also trying to identify the obstacles, or as we call them, the gaps associated with the implementation of the Iraqi investment law, and to address them through effective reforms," he said.
Investments 'necessary' to revive economy
Investments are necessary for reinvigorating the cities that have been devastated by ISIS, al-Hiti said, and to achieve comprehensive development.
"We should be motivating people with capital to enter strongly into our economy and invest in crippled national projects and companies," he said, noting that these represent a huge burden on the state.
"These projects and companies have either stopped production or are bleeding large amounts of money from Iraq's treasury, which can be redirected to reconstruction campaigns," he added.
Investment also could provide jobs for a large number of unemployed people, al-Hiti said.
Six million employees are on the government's payroll, he said, noting that this puts pressure on the treasury.
"It is important to strengthen the role of the private sector since Iraq has moved toward a free market economy," he said.
There are about 400 projects -- most of which were completed over the past two years, while others are underway or in the planning stage -- in provinces and areas that have been affected by terrorism, said al-Hiti.
These include the provinces of Ninawa, Anbar, Salaheddine, Kirkuk, Diyala, and areas in the Baghdad Belts and in northern Babil province.
"These projects fall under many sectors that have suffered destruction due to terrorist acts and military activity, most notably the energy, municipalities, health and education sectors," he said.
They were funded through the Iraqi government's reconstruction fund and through loans and grants from donor organisations and countries, he said, the largest of which is the $750 million loan from the World Bank.
The German Development Bank also has extended a 500 million euro ($580 million) loan and Kuwait has provided a $100 million grant, according to al-Hiti.