The Iraqi government and the International Energy Agency (IEA) hosted a virtual Ministerial Roundtable event to discuss reforms of the Iraqi economy and explore new models to encourage long-term investment in Iraq.
The focus of the discussions was the energy sector, particularly Iraq’s electricity and natural gas.
The meeting brought together senior Iraqi Ministers and officials, Ministers from IEA member countries, CEOs and leaders of energy companies as well as international financial institutions.
The Iraqi side was represented by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Ali Allawi, the Minister of Oil, Mr. Ihsan Ismail, the Minister of Electricity, Mr. Majid Hantoush, and the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Investment, Ms. Suha Najjar.
The event, co-hosted by the IEA’s Executive Director, Dr. Fatih Birol, was joined by senior government officials from other countries, including the US Secretary of Energy, Mr. Dan Brouillette, and the UK’s Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, Mr. Kwasi Kwarteng.
Business leaders taking part included the CEOs of Siemens Energy, GE Gas Power, Total, Eni and others.
At the start of the discussions, Dr. Ali Allawi outlined the nature and scale of the financial and economic crisis in Iraq.
Dr. Allawi told participants that this Iraqi government is revisiting all past decisions that have encumbered Iraq’s economy, allowed it to be wholly dependent on oil, and stifled the ingenuity and creativity of Iraqis.
Dr. Allawi said that the new Iraqi government is committed to submitting a wide-ranging White Paper to Parliament in September 2020 which will set out a roadmap to reorient the Iraqi economy and grow the private sector so that it can play its natural and leading role in the economy.
Dr. Allawi said that reforms are necessary to drive growth and development:
Iraq reforming its economy is not a matter for debate. It is essential, and it is vital that reforms are comprehensive and timely. The meeting today with the IEA highlighted the Government of Iraq’s seriousness in its endeavour to fundamentally reform its economy, including the energy sector, which we want to be a driver of growth and development.
In his contribution, Iraq’s Minister of Electricity, Mr. Majid Hantoush, outlined the challenges facing the electricity sector in Iraq which impede delivering a service that meets the expectations of the Iraqi people.
Mr. Hantoush underscored that the Iraqi government is determined to update plans to rehabilitate and modernise the electricity sector, and to rehabilitate and expand transmission network.
He reiterated that this Iraqi government will adopt the principle of partnership to encourage investment in this vital sector.
Iraq’s Minister of Oil, Mr. Ihsan Ismail, stressed the important role Iraq played in helping to stabilise the global oil market, despite the very exceptional and difficult challenges the country is facing, by fulfilling its commitment to implement the OPEC + and G20 agreements.
The Minister of Oil gave a briefing on the impact of the pandemic, the reduction in oil prices and the financial crisis, on the plans to develop the natural gas and oil sectors.
He added that the burning of associated gas is unacceptable, and stressed that the Iraqi government plans to end the burning of associated gas, and that this will contribute significantly to achieving the economic goals of the government.
The Executive Director of the IEA, Dr. Fatih Birol who opened the ministerial roundtable discussions, said electricity and natural gas sectors are critical to growing the Iraqi economy and to the creation of jobs for Iraqis.
Dr. Briol told participants that the new Iraqi government should be supported as it embarks on introducing what he described as “deep and urgent” structural reforms to revitalise the Iraqi economy.
Dr. Briol reiterated his organisation’s continued support for Iraq, saying:
The IEA has been a steadfast supporter of Iraq’s reforms, and we are especially encouraged by the Government’s clear-sighted and comprehensive vision for economic development. The energy sector will be a crucial linchpin here – stable and affordable electricity can spur the private sector growth that Iraq needs to diversify.
In his contribution, the US Energy Secretary, Mr. Dan Brouillette, thanked Iraqi ministers for what he described as their “frank analysis” of the current challenges facing Iraq and reiterated the US support for the Iraqi government and its reforms programme.
The UK’s Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, Mr. Kwasi Kwarteng welcomed the Iraqi government commitment to reforming and diversifying the economy, saying that the UK will continue to support Iraq across several areas, including economic reforms and called on other countries including those in the region to support Iraq.