Anbar, formerly Iraq’s most violent province, is continuing its dogged efforts to attract desperately needed investment through the creation of a special council dedicated to economic development.
The Anbar Economic Growth Council was launched in January in a ceremony at the provincial government centre in the capital city of Ramadi, while officials declared 2011 the “year of Anbar”.
The council will be chaired by the deputy governor and members will include representatives of both the public and private sectors in the province.
It was reported in early February that the provincial council (a separate body to the EGC that approves investment licenses) had awarded 46 licenses since the new year for domestic and foreign companies in various sectors such as industry, housing, agriculture, transportation, recreation and tourism. The projects are said to include a smelter facility for iron and glass, phosphate and aluminium; a plant for the production of metal drums; agribusiness facilities for processing vegetable oils and dairy products, and the packaging of dates; construction of two ten-storey buildings in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi as well as malls, restaurants and 11 residential projects; and the creation of a communications network and internet services for the province.
In December 2010, the provincial council had reportedly granted 34 investment licences. These licenses were for a range of projects in agriculture, tourism and entertainment as well as manufacturing and housing projects; they included three cement factories.
The National Iraqi News Agency (NINA) reported at the end of December that South Korea’s ambassador to Iraq, Suk Bom Park, had visited Ramadi to discuss investment opportunities and potential projects for Korean firms in the province.
Mohammed Fat’hi, an adviser to Anbar's governor, told NINA: “South Korea’s ambassador paid a visit to Ramadi and held a meeting with members of Anbar provincial council discussing the province’s investment, economic and trade opportunities.”
He said the ambassador presented a review of the activities of his country’s firms and their capabilities to participate in investment and executing economic, agriculture and industrial projects in the province. He added that the council offered investment possibilities in various sectors, mainly industry and minerals.
Anbar became notorious as a stronghold for terrorist groups and the scene of some of the worst violence during and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with key cities such as Fallujah devastated by fighting and subsequent terrorist attacks. The security situation has improved since 2007, although sporadic attacks continue; in late 2009 governor Qasim Al Fahadawi was maimed and nearly killed in a suicide attack outside his offices in Ramadi.