War-battered Iraq ‘open for investors’
War-battered Iraq sought Tuesday to attract international investors to rebuild the country after defeating the Islamic State group, offering hundreds of projects and touting extensive legal guarantees.
“Iraq is open for investors,” declared Sami al-Araji, chairman of Iraq’s National Investment Commission, on the second day of a major reconstruction conference in Kuwait.
The government in Baghdad says it needs nearly $90 billion to rebuild devastated homes, schools, hospitals and economic infrastructure after three years of war against IS.
World Bank officials joined Iraqi government representatives on Tuesday in Kuwait City to seek pledges from more than 2,000 representatives of international firms in attendance.
Araji said that Iraq, which has been either at war or under international sanctions since 1980, is offering projects in almost every field of the economy — from oil to agriculture.
He gave a brief introduction on 212 projects of various sizes available for local and international investors, whom he promised will enjoy a high degree of legal protection.
The projects introduced include building oil refineries and developing oilfields, in addition to massive housing and industrial ventures as well as at least four power plants.
Other projects included building and rehabilitating airports, railways, metros and roads.
Araji said the country is offering as many as 86 projects in the agricultural sector, many others in the health and education sectors, in addition to key ventures in tourism.
Iraq is also planning to establish four economic zones, he said.
The plan spans the next 10 years and Iraq announced on the opening day of the conference that the country needs investments worth $88.2 billion, of which $22 billion were required immediately.
Non-governmental organizations on Monday pledged $330 million but the main commitments are expected to be made by about 70 countries on the final day of the conference on Wednesday.
Iraqi and World Bank officials on Tuesday talked up legal guarantees available in post-IS Iraq, pointing to an investment law that offers ownership, unlimited cash transfers and tax breaks, among other benefits.
Nizar Nasser Hussein, the head of the legal department at the National Investment Commission, said the latest version of the law does not distinguish between foreign and Iraqi investors.
“Foreign investors can establish Iraqi companies,” he told AFP, adding that investors would be given lease contracts for 50 years, renewable for a similar period.
In addition, investors will be exempt from customs duties and income tax for 10-15 years, Hussein said.
Araji said investors in Iraq will find “high risks, but high returns”.