This week in Erbil, one of the oldest Middle East business consultancies, held its first conference in Iraq since its foundation in 1957. MEED held the two-day conference for international companies hoping to join the others that have already established themselves through investments and projects in the Kurdistan Region and the rest of Iraq.
Ms Nawroz Mawlood Amin, Director General of the Kurdistan Investment Board, outlined the Kurdistan Investment Law, which is one of the most foreign-investor friendly laws in the Middle East. She gave an overview of the investment opportunities in many sectors.
The Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations (DFR), Falah Mustafa, gave the opening ministerial keynote briefing to the attendees about the enormous progress that the Kurdistan Region has undergone since 2003 and the fall of the former regime, emphasizing the opportunities available to companies that wish to invest and work in the Kurdistan Region. He spoke about the role that the DFR plays saying, "Our task is to serve as a facilitator to assist companies coming to the region; by maintaining close contacts with all branches, departments and institutions of the government."
In talking about the vast opportunities in the Kurdistan Region, Minister Mustafa said, "There are currently upwards of 450 major projects in progress throughout the Kurdistan Region. The value of these projects exceeds US $20 billion, 21% of which is being funded at least in part through foreign direct investment." He described the conducive security and political stability conditions available in the Kurdistan Region emphasizing that many businesses can use it as the base or starting point for operations in the rest of Iraq.
The Governor of Erbil, Nawzad Hadi, also welcomed the attendees of the two-day conference emphasizing the work and efforts being undertaken by both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the people of the region in order to build a better future for the region economically and politically. He said, "It speaks volumes that we have been able to attract MEED to host their first event in Iraq in their over 55 years of existence here in Erbil. We are open to investment and cooperation across all sectors; not solely oil and gas."
The conference organizer, MEED, was founded in 1957 in order to build relations between the people of the Middle East and the international community. It continues to work to promote economic and business development across the Middle East, with Iraq the third largest country in the Middle East in terms of economic potential after Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The Chairman of MEED events, Edmund O--Sullivan, spoke about his enthusiasm over being able to hold the conference in the Kurdistan Region, stating "The Kurdish people have created through wise, prudent and pragmatic policies an environment in which it is easy to conduct business not only in the Kurdistan Region but in all of Iraq." He expressed his hope to be able to conduct further such conferences and events not only in Erbil but all across the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
Representatives from the KRG Ministry of Natural Resources spoke about the current status of oil and gas projects in the Kurdistan Region along with the enormous potential that exists both in the short and long term, thanks in large part to the great geology of the Kurdistan Region. Over 50 production sharing contracts (PSC's) have been signed with the KRG to date and these contracts are transparent and can be found online. The current production capacity stands between 250,000 to 300,000 barrels of oil per day, on track to reach one million barrels per day by 2015 based on the existing discoveries only.
Throughout the two-day conference officials from various KRG ministries as well as different companies, institutions and organizations spoke to the audience with different question and answer panels set up for the different opportunities in the Kurdistan Region. These ranged from discussions about Kurdistan's long-term vision to project opportunities in Kurdistan's energy and non-energy sectors.
Over 120 participants came to the conference from 10 countries: Bulgaria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Turkey, UK, USA, the UAE and Oman.