As the chairman of the Iraqi National Investment Commission (NIC), Dr Sami Al Araji represents the legal entity for promoting Iraq as a valuable destination for investments and trade. The NIC was established by law in 2006.
The commission was set up as a central provider of information and to act as subcontractor and facilitator for foreign direct investors. The organisation hopes to simplify the process for international investors through regulation and by assisting with the collection of important data. It is currently assisting investors with licences and tax exemptions. The NIC also provides justice and business process support, together with introduction and business networking.
Dr Sami told the audience at the US-Iraq Business and Investment Summit in October: “I am proud to announce that the Iraqi parliament has reviewed an amendment regarding investments. This amendment contains many important aspects, including the possibility for foreigners to own land and the putting in place of procedures for public-private partnerships. In the next weeks we will see a serious move towards allocating land to the NIC to use for investment projects. We will then give licences to investors.
“We are trying to create an environment that welcomes and encourages investments,” he said. Along the sidelines of the conference, he chatted with fDi Magazine about the land ownership legislation and its implications.
Q How is the change in property law important for investors?
A The law stipulates that non-Iraqis can own land for residential purposes. It means that if you want to apply to build a home and to own land, you can. Before, it used to be leased up to 50 years. This creates problems because some banks don’t give money to somebody who doesn’t own the land. Under this new law as an investor who buys land, you can keep it; you can sell or rent it out.
Q Has this legislation passed in parliament?
A Yes. The other important element to the reform is that land used to be under lots of different ministries. It is now all under the supervision of the NIC, which can give you a certificate to lend you land and direct you in the process.
Q There is also a 10-year tax holiday for investors. Is this available to all investors and all sectors?
A There is a 10-year tax holiday for everyone but there are some important sectors we give priority to.
Q Are there other changes to the national investment law the NIC would like to push through?
A These are the main changes for the private and public sectors but we would also like non-Iraqis to be allowed on the board of companies. Now you can get shares but you can’t be part of the board of directors. We would like this to be reformed in time.
The cost of this supplement was underwritten by the United States government. Reporting and editing were carried out independently by fDi Magazine.