While it is encouraging to see Iraq form a coalition government and start to move forward from its nine-month malaise, the hard work is yet to be done. Using the coming oil boom as an enabler to rebuild the country, the question must be asked: where to start?
Almost everything in Iraq needs to be rebuilt, including all of the infrastructure, utilities and, of course, basic essentials such as hospitals, houses and schools. Which is why increasing the amount of basic building blocks needed for construction is vitally important. Iraq must not forget that the domestic cement and steel manufacturing sectors need to be built up so they are in a position to provide the materials required to rebuild the country.
Like oil production, cement and steel is going to require foreign money and expertise. A good example of this is the planned 2 million tonnes-a-year (t/y) greenfield cement plant at Karbala. France’s Lafarge, the world’s largest cement manufacturer, has teamed up with the investment vehicle MerchantBridge to build the plant. Lafarge has identified Iraq as a key market and stated that it intends to produce 10 million t/y of cement in the country after it completes its planned expansion.
Encouraging multinational companies to set up in Iraq is the vital next step for the new government. Creating a safe and mutually beneficial business environment that creates employment is essential to Iraq and will free up billions of dollars in the federal budget.