Interview with Nawzad Hadi, Governor of Erbil
How do you ensure security in the city? How do you manage security with the rapid development Erbil is witnessing?
The stable security in Iraqi Kurdistan depends on the security forces that have a lot of experience besides the capabilities of Asayish, Security forces, police and Peshmerga. In addition to that, the intelligence agency in Iraqi Kurdistan is very precise and works cleverly. Together, they were able to secure safety in the past year. We shouldn't forget the support of Iraqi Kurdistan people for the government and how they don't give any chance to terrorists to enter. Even though there was a failure lately that resulted in the last accident, but we saw how security forces were ready to face terrorists with their program that intended to bomb Asayish department. There were rapid reactions within very few days. All those who had something to do with that incident were caught and went to trial. So, with this readiness and experience, we can see that our security forces have succeeded in securing safety unlike the unfortunate situation found in the other Iraqi governorates.
What are the economic developments in the Kurdistan region of Iraq?
When we look at the total amount of $25 billion being spent on a single governorate we'll find that it is a big budget and that it has resulted in changing citizens' income, their purchasing power, the economic and commercial activity, accordingly Erbil became an important trade centre not only to the region but to all of Iraq and it is even called the economic capital of Iraq.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) plans to develop the area economically and to develop the infrastructure along with the investments and the opportunities given to support private sector, all started after the year 2004. According to budget tables of all ministries and life sectors that are available at the governorate, there were $7 billion spent on the development of Erbil alone in 8 years. We can actually see the effect of the amount spent on the infrastructure and the construction of the city. Also, an amount of about $18 billion was projected during the period from 2004 till the end of 2012 to support the private sector and the investment in the region. About 65% of the total amount was spent on Erbil alone because it had the proper environment to carry out such development. When we look at the total amount of $25 billion being spent on a single governorate we'll find that it is a big budget and that it has resulted in changing citizens' income, their purchasing power, the economic and commercial activity, accordingly Erbil became an important trade centre not only to the region but to all of Iraq and it is even called the economic capital of Iraq. It was the ambition of KRG to make Erbil what it is now, and according to the surveys of the UN and the Ministry of Planning in Iraqi Kurdistan poverty rate accounts to 3% and unemployment rate is about 5%. If we compare it to other parts of Iraq, we can see that there is a big difference in terms of capabilities, work opportunities and other aspects. There are about 37 nationalities working in Iraqi Kurdistan in labour, investment, contracting works, trade and other kind of works. There are also representatives of about 27 consulates in Erbil including: USA, Russia, France, UK, and Germany besides the neighbouring countries like Turkey, Iran, Palestine, Egypt, UAE and Jordan. So, we can see the change included the region international relations as well as its regional standing and the economic development, all within 8 years.
What are the major investment opportunities within the master plan of the area?
According to the new constitution of Iraq, governorates have the right to use their natural resources and they shall be added to the national income. Accordingly, Iraqi Kurdistan has made some very important agreements with important oil and gas companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total and Gazprom because of the big amounts of oil and gas found here. So, the KRG is making use of all authorities granted under the Iraqi constitution without any hesitation.
How many tourists do you think Erbil will receive on 2014 after being named tourism capital for the year mentioned?
Following the changes we talked about, Erbil was nominated by the federal government to compete Beirut, Ta'if and Sharjah and then it was named the tourism capital of 2014. According to the program of Arab Ministers of Tourism, there shall be a meeting to discuss and arrange for a lot of events aiming for the promotion of tourism. There will be also an advertisement campaign to introduce Erbil to the Arab world and thus we believe there shall be a big number of tourists during the year. There is a specialized committee in the regional government of Kurdistan cooperating with the federal government to deal with this issue and provide whatever Erbil needs for the events of the tourism capital occasion.
What's your personal vision for Erbil? Some say it will be the next Dubai, some say it will be something else, other say Erbil can never make it. What's your personal vision and what roll do you think it is going to play?
It's going to be Erbil! When we said that we wanted to do like Dubai, we meant that we wanted to follow same policy implemented in Dubai as to how they are open to foreign companies and supportive of private sector. We want to bring the companies to work in Iraqi Kurdistan and we can see what happened within 8 years of time. We have a different kind of master plan and we are going under the umbrella of UNESCO with the development of this part of Erbil. Back on 2004, the radius of the city wasn't more than 5km. According to the plan we have, we want to reach the river in the upper side, the north, of Erbil to make the radius of the city around 25km, and it is now 13km. So you can imagine how we want to expand by the year 2020.
Do you have a message to send to the investment community? What can you tell them about coming here? What can you tell them about coming here and doing business?
Erbil is part of Iraq which is a very rich country. We would like to tell investors that we welcome new investments in Erbil and that it will be a good opportunity for them to establish their base in Erbil then move to the remaining parts of Iraq taking into account the stable security here, hopefully, Iraq as a whole will enjoy this security too one day. We would also like to tell them that even people here are welcoming them and will be very friendly when receiving them.
Are there any other cities that you would like to resemble? Or do you think Erbil will be unique on its own?
With the other countries, you can't find the same history of 8,000 years of age, but here you can find the old history and civilization of the Mesopotamia, Erbil enjoys this uniquely.