Iraq’s Investment Commission Says it Cooperates with Neighboring Countries to Improve Investment Law
The head of Iraq’s National Investment Commission, Suha Al-Najjar, said that her country was able to overcome current economic challenges thanks to the strong internal consumption and average income rates, noting that Iraqi and foreign companies in the country were adapted to operate under the most difficult circumstances and political crises.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Najjar pointed to cooperation with investment authorities and ministries in Egypt, the UAE, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, with the aim to develop Iraq’s legislative systems and the investment law.
She also emphasized that the Commission has succeeded in reducing the corruption index in projects by 60 percent, which enabled it to attract international investors.
“Our economy is strongly capable of overcoming every challenge, for a simple reason: Iraq is a large market with 40 million people and income rates are medium, not low. This rate is growing with the rise in oil prices and amid financial abundance,” Najjar remarked.
She continued: “The Iraqi people, as well as local and foreign investors operating in Iraq, got used to work under these conditions. Some companies see their profits rise during political crises, when the people resort to buying real estate.”
Najjar stressed that the Iraqi economy was able to face challenges, as the market was growing significantly in terms of population density.
Asked about Baghdad’s expectations from neighboring countries in the Gulf and others, such as Jordan and Egypt, the head of the Commission said: “From an economic point of view, the economic and investment situation in the neighboring countries, whether in the Gulf, Jordan and Egypt, has developed very quickly during the last period. Indeed, they could build successful economies, develop infrastructure and provide the people with services and housing, through investments.”
Najjar noted that Iraq had huge economic potentials that required investments worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
“Iraqi banks cannot provide these amounts,” she said, underlining her country’s need for liquidity, the exchange of expertise, and the development of a suitable legislative and legal environment.
“We have investment gaps, and we have discussed with the Investment Authority in Egypt, and the ministries of Investment in each of the UAE, Jordan and Saudi, our desire to develop the legislative and legal system in Iraq. They have all opened their doors for cooperation,” the senior official told Asharq Al-Awsat.
She added that Iraq would host workshops to come up with an updated investment law in cooperation with neighboring countries.
According to Najjar, investment in her country was, in the past, associated with corruption.
“But today, thank God, we were able to change this idea, with the adoption of stricter procedures,” she said.
Najjar pointed to ongoing projects to address housing needs, including the Rafael City project – the new administrative capital of Iraq – which she said would extend over a large area of 25 square kilometers and would help advance the economy and solve the housing crisis in the capital.
She explained that the Commission completed the first phase by reviving existing projects and granting new investment licenses to investors from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
“It will be Iraq’s first experience in establishing a new city of this size, similar to the new cities in neighboring countries. It will include housing areas, and recreational and service projects such as universities, hospitals and markets,” Najjar said.
In addition, the head of Iraq’s National Investment Commission highlighted the shift towards solar energy, saying that Iraq was able provide 7,500 megawatts to international companies producing solar energy, namely Total, the UAE’s Masdar, the Norwegian Scatec and POWERCHINA, adding that negotiations were underway with the Saudi ACWA Power.
Asked whether Iraq was able to keep the fight against corruption and rebuild investors’ confidence, despite recent political developments, Najjar said: “With regards to the National Investment Commission, I can say that we were able to eliminate corruption by 60 percent, which enabled us to attract global investors whose main request was to deal only with the Commission.”
She continued that despite the huge powers granted to the commission, “it is a coordinating body and our work depends on all other ministries, and in order to eliminate corruption, it must also be eliminated in other government bodies.”
Najjar stressed that the current Iraqi government was working in this direction, adding that her country’s large market was growing despite all challenges.
On Saudi Arabia’s role in promoting investments in Iraq, she said: “Saudi Arabia, represented by the government and Saudi investors, has been very supportive of Iraq, in building and correcting the economic path… and we thank them for this support, which is done in different ways, by helping to amend legislation and laws related to investment.”