I recently represented MIGA in a special working group of the OECD focused on Iraqi reconstruction. It was an interesting and useful gathering, attended by Iraqi civil servants from across the administration, export credit agencies, and of course private sector representatives interested in doing business in the country. During the meeting we discussed a number of issues, including how countries rich in natural resources, such as oil, can use those resources to stimulate growth and development and diversify the economy. My objective at the Paris meeting was two-fold: to really listen to the views of Iraqis and then to hear the perceptions of the private sector and their views on investing.
A number of companies spoke about their particular areas of expertise, in infrastructure and project finance. Project finance and public-private partnerships are new concepts for Iraq, so there was an opportunity to discuss how the country could bring more innovative models for building infrastructure—beyond the traditional budget financing and public procurement approach.
This brings me to an important point. Iraq today is struggling with a dearth of expertise as a result of a past regime that effectively closed the country for decades. This fact cannot be avoided. However, certainly this means that there is ample room for concerned public sector and non-government organizations, working groups, and a responsible private sector to give the country a leg up, a crash course on development, if you will.
The discussion was quite interesting, and I came away thinking we could see some movement on the investment front going forward—though investors are still significantly concerned about the security situation.
MIGA has already been part of a World Bank Group delegation that visited Iraq last year. We have seen some projects coming into the pipeline and, provided they meet our requirements, we hope to be able to be doing business soon in that country to assist reconstruction and development in a meaningful way.