In an exclusive interview with the Kurdish Globe Dr. Ashti Hawrami, Minister of Natural Resources ? KRG, explains the significant point when the KRG oil policy was launched and the success that this brought to the Kurdistan Region.
He also elaborates more on his reasons for criticising Gorran for their counterproductive attacks on the Ministry of Natural Resources and their continuous undermining of its achievements. He also reveals that oil export will be continuing, and confirms that more major oil companies are coming to the Kurdistan Region.
Kurdish Globe: How did it all start and what was it like before you came back to Kurdistan in 2006?
Ashti Hawrami: Many mistakes were made before the Ministry of Natural Resources was established in 2006. A handful of contracts were awarded, which were far too generous in favour of the oil companies.
However, that was generally understandable to some extent, as we did not have many professionals familiar with the commercial aspects of the oil business or with the international contracting standards at that time.
However, as I explained in my recent interview with Rudaw, the lack of transparency issues hidden behind these contracts were more serious and had to be dealt with.
Kurdish Globe: So what were the first steps KRG took after your appointment to formulate the oil policy of the Region and deal with these old contracts issues?
Ashti Hawrami: Soon after my appointment as a Minister in 2006, I brought with me all the required experience, expertise and some international advisors to draft a regional law to be enacted by the Parliament to establish KRG?s full control over all the Oil Operations in the Region.
In order to enable us to practice our constitutional rights, the Law was badly needed otherwise all our rights would have been controlled by Baghdad. The Law was approved by all the members of Parliament and empowered the ministry of Natural Resources to review the old contracts and to bring them in line with international commercial and transparency standards.
Kurdish Globe: In addition to fixing the old contracts, why was that step of passing the regional oil law so important for the Kurdistan Region?
Ashti Hawrami: The Law translated the rights we have acquired in the Constitution into a practical tool to enable us to work legally according to our rights. If we did not establish that control by Law over the management of our natural resources, we would not have 50 oil companies working here; we would not have been able to produce natural gas for our power stations, hence only 4 hours of electricity at most; and we would not have been able to have our own refined products. We would have therefore remained firmly under the mercy of Baghdad for all our needed products.
Kurdish Globe: Can you summarise the main achievements so far?
Ashti Hawrami: The results we have achieved in a short period of time have made us self -sufficient with independent controls over power generation and refined products.
We have attracted some 50 oil companies, amongst them the super-majors and the majors, who are investing huge sums of money in our Region which will make our future brighter and better.
The oil sector development paved the way for many other economic activities in the Region. In my view, if we did not have the oil industry controlled by ourselves, probably very little other inward investment would have followed for all the other sectors.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been offered by the oil companies to the Government for social programs and to improve the infrastructure of the Region. The companies have also agreed to implement, at their own cost, many social and infrastructure projects.
This process is continuing, for example the Koreans will implement two power projects over the next 2/3 years, costing them $700 million, and once completed they will be donated free of charge to the Government.
More importantly, Kurdistan is now firmly on the energy map of the world as a new frontier for oil and gas exploration and development. This has happened because in a short period of time we have proved potential resources in access of 45 billion barrels of oil and 200 trillion cubic feet of gas, very little of this was known or expected prior to 2006. This gains Kurdistan more international recognition that will translate into a better security for our Region.
Kurdish Globe: Many people in Kurdistan feel the results of these achievements, so why do you care about the accusations of Gorran?
Ashti Hawrami: I know that many people appreciate the difference we have made to the Region. I know that they remember that in 2006 we had only 3 to 4 hours of electricity per day and long queues for accessing fuel products, and they appreciate that now we have nearly 24 hours of electricity and hardly any fuel shortages, and all those other achievements that I just summarised.
However, I feel that Gorran?s repeated and unfounded attacks on our policies, has confused some of our people, and has undermined their confidence on self-reliance and belief in self-rule, that is why I am not happy with the people behind these attacks.
For example, some people in Gorran, without producing any shred of evidence, repeatedly talk about the lack of transparency in the payments and contributions made by the oil companies, and they do this by falsifying the facts to deceive our people for their own political aims.
They do this despite the fact that we have published all the payments made to the Government up to and including 2009, and all subsequent payments have been reported to the Parliament. The full information up to and including 2009 was put out into public domain, indeed, the whole world has seen this information, which is published in a book that is freely distributed.
Kurdish Globe: Can you elaborate more on the tactics Gorran deployed to undermine the KRG oil policy achievements?
Ashti Hawrami: Some in Gorran have unfairly and deliberately falsified the facts and mixed and added the value of the infrastructure projects to be implemented by the companies at their costs with the cash donations they made to the Government.
This way Gorran makes the cash component sound much bigger. Then, they used this made-up larger figure of their own to claim that money is missing. This is done for political reasons, and to deceive the public.
They have allegedly created a centre for economic studies. But it would appear that either they don?t have a clue on oil contracting or the centre has been created to falsify information.
For example, the published information on our contracts is there for everyone to see, but this Gorran centre allegedly reviewed the contracts, and came up with their own made-up tables and figures on 40 of them, and then shamelessly published this mad-up information to claim that 40% of the interest in each of our contracts is for PUK and KDP. Again, this is done to deceive the public and for their own political purposes.
When Baghdad cut our share of Fuel Oil, instead of defending our rights, some in Gorran went out of their way to the rescue of Baghdad, offering their services, such as using their so-called free media to blame the KRG policies for Baghdad?s cut of Regions? share of fuel supplies. This was done in a shameful, secret and indefensible letter that they sent to Mr Shahristani at the time.
It is becoming clear that some people in Gorran (but not all) do not care about the interest of the people of Kurdistan. For sure those people are not the future nation builders, but to me they can be described as reckless and determined destroyers. They appear to have no conscience or feeling in harming others, and for them rules or facts have no meaning, so they do no care about the consequence of their actions.
They collaborate with anyone, enemies included, to achieve their own political objectives. Fabricating lies and falsifying facts are tools they frequently employ in their mission.
Sadly, this is what some in Gorran are about, but our people will see through these shameful tactics and will not accept such betrayal from any party against our own national interest.
Kurdish Globe: In addition to attacking KRG?s achievements, they have been also targeting you personally, would you like to comment on that?
Ashti Hawrami: Their reason for targeting me personally fits with what I said earlier; that they have no conscience or feeling in harming others. They identify me as the person who is driving the KRG?s successful policy forward, and as they see it, this success is making KDP and PUK popular. Therefore I should be a target for them, and they give themselves the right to deploy their standard tools for fabricating lies to attack me.
Just to illustrate an example of falsifying the facts about me personally; when in an open-minded way I went to see Mr Nawshirwan Mustafa, I thought that we really had a good respectful meeting and a useful discussion, we were both happy with the meeting, but as soon as I was out of the door, they reported in their so-called free media, in a typical shameless Gorran style, that I was called in for a meeting by Mr Mustafa to explain oil contracts and money to him.
When the truth was in fact the other way round, it was the Prime Minster who suggested that it might be a good idea for me to go and see Mr Mustafa and bring him up to date with our oil policy and the progress so far. We planned to do the same with all the other opposition leaders as well as with PUK and KDP leadership.
Another cheap and nasty example of them attacking me through their so-called free media was when they showed pictures of my house in the UK. In attempt to deceive the public they implied that I owned my house through illegal benefits from my post as Minister. This deplorable article was published when they knew that the house has been bought in 1996, some 10 years before I returned to Kurdistan to serve our people.
Kurdish Globe: How big a concern is this Gorran approach to you?
Ashti Hawrami: What I am trying to say is that these tactics are counterproductive and a worrying source for self-inflicting harm to our peoples? interest. Their media attacks on our oil policy achievements are not in our national interest. We should work together on this most important sector and not to politicise it to the benefit of our enemies.
Sadly, until now some in Gorran have seen the success of our oil policy as the victory for the ruling parties and not as a victory for our people, which is why I fear that they will continue with these futile tactics. But these actions have been noticed and discovered, allowing people to judge them accordingly.
I would still like to remain hopeful that some others in Gorran will speak out against these tactics, to ensure that the national interest can be the priority for all of us, and for them to influence others in Gorran to change the policy and become constructive rather than destructive, joining us hand in hand to work together on this important national interest. That way the success can be claimed by all the parties and not just by the ruling parties, as some in Gorran fear.
Kurdish Globe: Now, let us turn to the status of the oil export, we understand that there are still no payments from Baghdad, so will the export stop this week as reported before?
Ashti Hawrami: The oil export restarted on 7th of August, and it was agreed with the contractors that this would last for one month (30 days), so we still have a few days to go.
The efforts are continuing by our US friends and some others to convince Baghdad to come up with the payments. Our friends asked us for some additional time to enable them to complete their mission in Baghdad.
In light of this request, we have talked to the contractors involved and managed to persuade them to continue with the agreed level of export (100,000 barrels per day) until 15th September, so we hope that by that time we have a solution to report.
Kurdish Globe: We hear that after TOTAL and Gazprom more major oil companies, including Turkish companies have been visiting Kurdistan, can you tell us about these new companies and have any of them agreed to sign contracts with the KRG?
Ashti Hawrami: I can confirm that very recently we have been and continue to be in discussion with at least 3 or 4 more important companies. Of course it is not our policy to report on negotiations and discussions, or to name the companies involved, however, as usual announcements will be made once any new contracts are signed and after all the related formalities are completed.