Interview with Peshraw Majid Agha, Owner and CEO of Falcon Group and Empire World - Iraq
How do you feel about the business environment in the Kurdistan region?
There is stability and security in Kurdistan region, we also enjoy stable currency against the US dollar, and this is the attracting factor for investors to the region.
What should be done to improve the business climate?
Regarding investments in Kurdistan region, the U.S government invested about US $ 6 billion during the last 6 years since 2006, this shows that the Kurdistan region is an area of security where it is safe to invest, also the regional government has implement a lot of projects during the last 6 years, and nowadays there are many open projects for investments like bridges, roads, hospitals, dams and power plants, all of this made the investors feel safe, because of that Marriott brand decided to come into Kurdistan, knowing that Marriott is a part of a project called "Empire world" which will cost $2.3 billion dollars and consists of apartments, villas and office towers along other life requirements like malls and other facilities. All of these investments in Kurdistan are to enrich the area.
How is the development going to impact the Kurdistan region? And what made you commit to such ambitious project that has never been done in the area?
This investment has a positive effect on the Kurdistan region, and even though we are a part of Iraq, we show the investors that the policy of the region is different from the policy of Iraq. And this gives a sense of security to the investor and thus brings them to the region. For example, we see that the biggest international companies in the fields of oil and gas are located within the region, and many of them are present here in the offices of the "Empire world", so this gives a positive image of the region.
What aspects of the business are causing you troubles?
I'd say the cash economy problem, since there are no banks offering loans and all the money being used in investing is coming out of pockets - in cash. Thus, the lack of credit in the system is hindering larger, long-term investments in the economy.
We do face technical problems in the region like not having our imported materials delivered on time, also from the financial aspect we don't have banks that offer loans for the investors, which in the end force them to pay for everything from their own pockets.
Risks are found all over the world when it comes to investing, but when you look at the Kurdistan region, you will see that the risk is lesser or even there is none at all since investments here are based on cash with buyers or other sectors, and this what makes the difference between us and... U.S or Europe or Dubai, where investors in projects get loans from those banks.
How is the "Empire world" project unique?
What makes this project unique is the size, quality, design and delivery on time - these factors are important when it comes to investment projects. Also, Empire is an Iraqi company owned entirely by Iraqis, so all of these factors help the ones who want to invest in this project feel safe and secure.
How risky is the real estate sector in Kurdistan?
Risks are found all over the world when it comes to investing, but when you look at the Kurdistan region, you will see that the risk is lesser or even there is none at all since investments here are based on cash with buyers or other sectors, and this what makes the difference between us and for example the banks that give loans in U.S or Europe or Dubai, where investors in projects get loans from those banks. So for us and due the cash-based projects, the risks are lesser than in the above-mentioned places.
How do you see the future developments of the opportunity as per this one?
The majority of the local investors are from region, so they will not take the money and run away because they live here. Also, the local real estate sector is not driven by foreign investors but by local people and that is the biggest advantage when the money comes from within your country and is then managed by local people.
As the Chairman of Falcon Group, what is your vision for the company?
Falcon group, on of the leading companies in Iraq, consists of almost 14 companies entirely owned by Iraqis. We as Falcon group earn money from Iraq and invest it back in Iraq and this gave our company a good image in the country. I can also say that almost all of our management consists of experts who hold 15 to 20 years of experience in business, also we have a number of employees that ranges between 700 to 1,000 Iraqi workers, and we focus our efforts to rebuild Iraq and its different sectors like construction, real estate, transportation, agriculture, security, oil and gas services and many other fields in which we aim to rebuild Iraq, because we love our country and we focus on rebuilding and investing in it.