Iraqi officials seem to be pleased with the turnout of the first days of Iraq reconstruction conference, which ends on Wednesday in Kuwait, as they await participants to announce their donations as part of the international aid campaign for the reconstruction of their war-affected country.
The countries participating in Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq (KICRI), which includes hundreds of officials, non-governmental organizations and businessmen, will announce their financial contributions on Wednesday.
During the conference, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that if communities in Iraq and Syria cannot return to normal life, "we risk the return of conditions that allowed ISIS to take and control vast territory."
“We must continue to clear unexploded remnants of war left behind by ISIS, enable hospitals to reopen, restore water and electricity services, and get boys and girls back in school," he asserted.
Tillerson announced the official US export credit agency, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), would sign with Iraq’s finance ministry on Tuesday a $3 billion memorandum of understanding “that will set a stage for future cooperation”.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi spoke of his country's ability to attract capital and investors because of its great potential. The government has worked to achieve economic reforms and remove obstacles that might hinder investors, he said at a panel discussion entitled "One Window: Supporting Investors in Iraq."
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reiterated France’s congratulations on the progress made in the fight against ISIS and paid tribute to the courage and determination of the Iraqi forces.
The Minister also welcomed the resumption of dialogue between Iraq’s central government and the authorities of the autonomous Kurdish region and reaffirmed France’s hope that an agreement can be swiftly reached while ensuring respect for the Iraqi constitution and the rights of the Kurds.
Le Drian hoped to see Iraq embark on the path toward national reconciliation and continue its efforts to establish inclusive governance that responds to the aspirations of all components of Iraqi society, particularly the Iraqi Kurds.
During the conference, he reaffirmed that France will support Iraq in its efforts to address the challenges of stabilization and reconstruction in the country.
German Development Minister Gerd Muller urged the reconstruction of destroyed cities and villages in Iraq to facilitate the return of displaced people and refugees to their areas.
According to the minister, there are currently about 100,000 Iraqi refugees living in Germany, adding the Ministry of Development had set up a program to motivate them to return home. He stressed that the main incentive for reconstruction in Iraq should be launched from the Iraqi government itself.
"The economy must be the engine of reconstruction in Iraq and I am pleased that so many well-known companies in Germany want to participate in the rebuilding," he said on Tuesday at the Kuwait conference
On the second day of the conference, Baghdad sought to attract investors who are hesitant because of the security situation.
Presenting more than 200 projects, ranging from oil refineries to housing and transportation, “Iraq is open for investors,” said Sami al-Araji, chairman of Iraq’s National Investment Commission.
For his part, Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi said on Tuesday, that his country needs $4 billion for new investments in its oil industry, outlining plans to expand refining capacity over the next several years. He also said Iraq planned to boost its crude oil production capacity to 7 million barrels per day by 2022, from 5 million bpd at present.
Luaibi said the downstream investment would lift refining capacity to 1.5 million bpd by 2021, with 500,000 bpd of that earmarked for export.
Baghdad announced on the first day of the conference that it needs $88.2 billion, including $20 billion in the short term and the rest in the medium term.
"We finished one battle but we are engaged now with a war for reconstruction," said Mustafa al-Hiti, head of Iraq's reconstruction fund for areas affected by terrorist operations.
Hiti said that the Iraqi government would unveil more than 150 investment projects in different fields, in addition to offering a number of investment projects by the private sector.
He indicated that the housing sector is the most affected and needs $18 billion as there are about 138,000 affected housing units, more than 50 percent completely damaged at the time that some 2.6 million Iraqis are still displaced inside the country.
Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) launched on Tuesday "Invest in Iraq" conference part of KICRI which will provide an opportunity for the private sector to be introduced to investment opportunities in Iraq. It was attended by Chamber's Chairman Ali al-Ghanim and head of the Iraqi National Investment Commission Sami al-Araji.
Iraq's Central Bank deputy governor Mahmoud Dagher indicated the diversity of the banking sector in Iraq means there is an appropriate opportunity for transactions, transfers, and everything needed by the investor.
He pointed out that Iraq's reserves have now reached $50 billion compared to neighboring countries, so it is considered in a good state and investors can be assured of the conditions of Iraq's economy.
For his part, head of the parliamentary economy and investment committee Ahmed al-Kanani indicated the most important base of investment is confidence, noting that "the committee took on the task of promoting confidence through legislation that contributes to the promotion of investment and reconstruction of Iraq".
The conference discussed various topics such as the investing environment in Iraq, the reform program and means of reconstruction, as well as reviewing the opportunities of the private sector through presenting successful investment examples.
The conference also covered major investment sectors in Iraq in the fields of oil and gas, transport, industries, real estate, economic zones, energy, agriculture, health and others.