Istanbul was the place to be for Iraqi officials, businesspeople and interested stakeholders in late October, where within the space of a few days, and a few blocks, there was an Iraq telecoms gathering (see page 52) as well as the second annual Al Anbar Investment Conference.
Attended by representatives of more than 100 companies totalling roughly 300 people, the Al Anbar event had the headline theme of ‘Continuous Investment for a Stable Tomorrow’ – a theme which is very much in line with the objectives espoused by the tireless governor of the province, Qasim Al Fahadawi, whose dogged efforts to bring in investment as a means of securing the once-war-torn region has been tracked closely by fDi Magazine since 2009. He provided an update on the sidelines of the Istanbul event.
Q: What do you think are the major developments to have taken place since fDi visited Al Anbar in 2009?
A: The main change is in the infrastructure. We have built a lot of roads, highways, bridges and also a water treatment plant. In March of next year, we will finish the ring road of Ramadi that we started in 2010, as well as a bridge crossing a canal to Al Habbaniyah. We also recently awarded a contract for a five-star hotel with 300 rooms in Ramadi… We are also now in the phase of awarding contracts for supermarkets, big ones, with 14 floors. And there are many other projects.
Q: What are your key priorities right now? What types of investments are you seeking most urgently?
A: For the industries, we are seeking investors to start with the most profitable opportunities we have. I say profitable because we have the best raw materials, in some cases in the world. If we talk about the silica available in Al Anbar, it is the best in the world regarding purity and the percentage of iron. Therefore we are looking for an investor for glass companies and also an investor for phosphorous [production], because we have about 10% of the worldwide reserves of phosphate.
[We are on the brink of finalising a] contract with one company from the United Arab Emirates to invest in producing fertilisers, using the phosphate from Al Anbar and sulphur from Mosul, to manufacture a good quality of fertiliser. I think within a few weeks it will get the approval from the prime minister because this is a huge project, $250m, so we are not authorised to sign such big projects – the total cost is about $1bn. This is a key project for Al Anbar that will change the face of its economy.
Q: How is the security situation lately? Some worry that there could be a return to violence as multinational forces exit the country.
A: The security situation is better than in past years. It becomes better day by day. Now we have achieved a positive change for the security in Al Anbar. There are some incidents that happen here and there, but we are better. We will reach the day that [the province] is principally secure.