For more than the past century Iraq has been a place of contradictions and frequent turmoil. A desert country that was part of the Fertile Crescent, Iraq is a country of fiercely independent tribes with a compulsion for centralisation and a state of three very different confessional communities.
The past 30 years have seen the destruction of the Iran-Iraq war, two Gulf wars and its recent insurgency with Da’esh. While the material effect of these has been easy to see, what is often not appreciated is how devastating these events have been to the social and community structures of the country.
The main major challenge remains dealing with the consequences of the war with Da’esh. The number of internally displaced people runs into the hundreds of thousands with many in IDP camps. Both the Government of Iraq, and the many aid agencies, are stretched to the limit as much of western Mosul is destroyed and totally inhabitable, while eastern Mosul is badly damaged. Bridges are down, power and infrastructure badly damaged, airport and hospitals completely raised to the ground.
Oil will play the key part in Iraq’s redevelopment for the foreseeable future; even here Iraq has been struck by misfortune. Social and structural development programmes were predicated upon a healthy price for crude, the income currently generated is nowhere near that figure, and there is also the added challenge of having a heavy reconstruction bill to foot in light of the recent liberation from Daesh in the north. Not only does the price affect the economy, in a Catch-22 type situation, it also affects the ability to rehabilitate the infrastructure necessary to enable sustained output. The low margin also reduces the ability to build new refineries to increase production. There is a serious need for new refinery capacity. The news on the oil and gas front is not all bad. There are now serious efforts, mainly with Shell, to capture the huge quantities of gas that were previously flared across the Southern oilfield. Also, there are new fields being looked at closer to Baghdad.
At the same time, we have an extremely volatile political situation. All the key ministries are in some state of turmoil, which is not a good situation. In addition, Iraq continues to suffer from the meddling of some of its neighbours, and their proxies, which has been the case since the days of the Ottoman Empire.
Iraq has come through one of the most challenging times in its history, yet now it can see a flicker of hope in the future as businesses are open again, foreign investment is being pledged and resources are plentiful.
Iraq is a country with challenges and not for the faint hearted, however it is very much open for business and enabling business is what we do.