Interview with Nechirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government
What is your direction for Kurdistan Region and are how are you approaching the domestic and foreign challenges?
We are guided by the experiences of other countries in the international community to safeguard a prosperous future for the people of our region. It is a challenge and we have made great progress over the past two decades, but there remains much to be done.
Our domestic challenges change over time as our people demand more services and action from their government. A few years ago, basic services such as electricity and water remained as one of the key areas of concern and need for our people. Today issues such as transparency remain a key aspect for our people, and we are working with various organizations and institutions both internally and abroad to adopt the necessary legislation to combat issues such as corruption. Having said that, I do believe our people are supportive of our programs and appreciate that such efforts take time.
Since the founding of the Kurdistan Region, we have tried to reach out to the international community to ensure there is general understanding about the differences between our region and the rest of the country. This remains another key aspect of our policy and objectives with the international community.
What are the biggest priorities for domestic reform in other words what are your main priorities (where would you like to see Kurdistan Region)?
Achieving self-sufficiency within the new federal Iraq is a key priority for our government. Over the past several years, we have been able to build an oil/gas industry for the betterment of the country as a whole. Today, the success of our oil/gas policies and approach have allowed us to export up to 250,000 bpd, providing the necessary funds to develop other key industries, including agriculture and health sectors.
Our region used to be very rich in agricultural products, in fact it was more often referred to as the food basket for the country. Today, the region imports most of its produce despite the fact that there are local produce available; our region still lacks the experience and expertise about taking these products to the market. Over the next several years, our government will be supporting measures to attract much-needed attention and investment to these areas.
Our government has established an investment board since 2006 as a medium for investors to approach for investment opportunities, which has been largely successful – attracting over $22 billion since its founding. Our policy is to continue the adoption of the key legislation that will promote other sectors and attract further investments.
A successful and prosperous Kurdistan will undoubtedly help develop the rest of the country; we want to share our experience and knowledge to ensure the well-being of the country as a whole.
What is planned for Kurdistan Region in terms of attracting investments? What is the governmental policy?
The Kurdistan Investment Law is well-known for its friendly incentives to investors, which has played a substantial role in attracting investments. Our government has established an investment board since 2006 as a medium for investors to approach for investment opportunities, which has been largely successful – attracting over $22 billion since its founding.
Our policy is to continue the adoption of the key legislation that will promote other sectors and attract further investments. For instance, the success of the oil/gas industry was largely due to the Kurdistan Parliament adopting an oil and gas law that was in line with the Federal Constitution – allowing us to attract some of the world's largest oil and gas companies. In fact, many prestigious oil and gas companies are now openly abandoning their proven oil fields in the south of the country in order to pursue exploration activities in Kurdistan – another testament of the success of our policy. We want to continue these efforts by promoting other legislation for mining, agricultural and health industries.
The experience in Iraq has taught us to devolve powers to the people and more away from centralization. Another reason for the continued success we are making in Kurdistan is due to our policies of working with the private sector as it has proved to deliver better and more meaningful services to our people. An example of this success story is in the electricity sector; we spent about $1.5 billion to achieve almost 24-hours electricity in a very short period of time, while the rest of the country has spent tens of billions and still suffers from 4-6 hours of electricity per day.
A key message that we convey to investors is that they can use Kurdistan as a platform for the rest of the country. An investment into this region is an investment for all of Iraq.
What should be the role played by Kurdistan Region on the international scene?
After decades of isolation and sanctions, we want to be part of the international community. Our people are very friendly and welcoming, and we want to share our culture and experience with other friends and allies.
The KRG has 14 representations across the world that are used to promote political, economic and cultural ties between Kurdistan and the world at large, and we are welcomed in many capitals as heads of states. We will continue this experience and help contribute to the rest of the country so long as we are part of a federal, democratic and constitutional Iraq.
Our representations are also playing a key role in ensuring that the world understands and recognizes the difficulties that we have had to endure during our painful history; this recognition will play an important and symbolic role to prevent such crimes occurring again.