Iraq plans to take a major step toward making its energy industry more open in February by joining an international transparency initiative.

The country’s government will become a candidate for membership of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in February, according to a statement issued by the EITI on 10 January.

Iraq’s Oil Ministry said on the same day that it plans to hold a conference to launch its membership on 10 and 11 July.

The Oslo-based EITI is an international organisation which works to make both governments and the companies they work with more accountable for the oil and gas they produce, primarily by publishing the volume of hydrocarbons they produce and how much money they earn from them.

The move is seen as an attempt by the ministry, led by Oil Minister Hussain Shahristani, to improve the image of the country’s most lucrative industry, both domestically and internationally.

The country currently relies on oil for around 90 per cent of government revenues, and is in the process of awarding a series of exploration and production contracts to international companies. The government wants to boost oil production from the current levels of around 2.5 million barrels-a-day (b/d) to 12 million b/d in 2015.

“The Oil Ministry is managing most of the downstream works in the country and 90 per cent of the budget comes from these activities, so this is one of the reasons why we are keen to join this initiative,” Shahristani said at a press conference held on 10 January to announce the initiative.

Iraq was ranked 175 out of 180 countries in Berlin-based Transparency international’s 2009 poll of corrupt countries.