Q What attributes does Anbar possess that might be of interest to foreign investors and how are you planning to make use of these to drive economic development?
A First, Anbar is a very rich province: very rich in minerals, natural resources and tourism possibilities – there are four lakes here -- but also rich in highly educated people. The highest education level among citizens in Iraq is in Anbar province. It is a highly educated society in comparison with the other provinces. Many of its citizens have been educated abroad, in Europe or the US.
The first thing we have to do is ensure the success of the initial investment projects in the province in order to be able to attract additional investors. I am trying to support the first group of investors by leading the engineering studies for potential projects; the US Marines are helping us with this.
Q How are you tackling the high unemployment rate in Anbar?
A We have 19,400 people who do not have jobs. We have to create jobs for them. The industrial zone we are planning to create in the city of Ramadi, for example, will employ 12,000 of them. Creating jobs is very important in fighting against terrorism because it absorbs the resources of the terrorists – and the resources of the terrorists are the unemployed.
Q Do these unemployed people have the necessary skills for working in an industrial zone?
A No, most have no skills but we are developing programmes to train them. We work to treat the problems and to plan the future for each city. In addition to industrial zones for rehabilitated industries, we are also developing entire new cities for tourism and for living. These projects will create jobs as well as accommodation. I have agreed with consultants to make a masterplan for each city and to build an identity for each of them. I want to keep the architecture of the cities. Unfortunately, many of our historical buildings have been destroyed during the war, but we don’t want to lose the identity of the cities.
Q How has Anbar’s security situation evolved in recent years?
A It has changed because the people hate the terrorists. All of them. Al Qaeda wanted to use Iraq as a stadium to fight the Americans, and the Iraqis would pay the bill for it. We don’t care about the conflict between Al Qaeda and the US. Now, it is impossible for Al Qaeda to come back because it will not find support. On our side, we are working on how to improve the security system and the security facilities to protect the investors and our citizens.
Q How can you convince investors it is safe to operate in Anbar?
A We have to show them it is safe. The first project has come from Kurdistan. We had the groundbreaking ceremony two weeks ago. I had four alternatives for this project, but I insisted on starting with this company. These investors prefer to come here rather than investing in Kurdistan – which is a really safe area. The question is ‘why?’ Because the project is better. The factors of this province attracted them.
QASIM AL FAHADAWI
Left Iraq to live and work abroad as a businessman as security deteriorated in the country
Graduated with a degree in engineering, followed by further studies in Germany