Iraq seeks $100bn to reconstruct transport, agriculture and oil sectors

Local residents remove bodies from the rubble in the Old City of Mosul. Cities across Iraq have been destroyed by years of war with as much as $100 billion needed for the reconstruction effort. (Reuters)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Iraq seeks $100bn to reconstruct transport, agriculture and oil sectors

BAGHDAD: Iraq is seeksing around $100 billion in foreign investment in transport, energy and agriculture as part of a plan to rebuild parts of the country and revive the economy after a three-year war on Daesh.
The government’s National Investment Commission published a list of 157 projects it will seek investment for at an International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq to be hosted by Kuwait Feb. 12 to 14.
Some of these projects are about rebuilding destroyed facilities like Mosul’s airport, while others are new investments to strengthen and diversify the economy away from oil, said an economic adviser to Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi.
“All together, they cost about $100 billion,” the adviser, Mudhar Saleh, told Reuters. Sixteen projects carry a price tag of $500 million or more, according to the list.
Rebuilding homes, hospitals, schools, roads, businesses and telecommunications is key to providing jobs to the young, to end the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and put an end to several decades of political and sectarian violence.
Iraq declared victory over Daesh in December, having taken back all the territory captured by the militants in 2014 and 2015. A US-led coalition supported the Iraqi forces, especially in the battle to dislodge them from Mosul, their de facto capital in northern Iraq, in July.
The US government will not contribute funds at the conference but will instead encourage investment from the private sector and Gulf Arab allies, US and Western officials said.
A US official in Baghdad said 100 US companies were participating in the conference.
Three rail projects top the list: A 500-kilometer (311 mile) line from Baghdad to Basra in the south estimated to cost $13.7 billion, a line from Baghdad to Mosul in the north estimated at $8.65 billion and an $8 billion metro for the capital.
Iraq reopened to foreign investment in 2003 after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, but the vast majority of the billions invested went to increasing its oil and gas production.
It has become the second-largest crude exporter of OPEC, after Saudi Arabia, with a daily output of 4.4 million barrels.
At the conference, Iraq will seek investment in the downstream oil industry including in storage tanks, refineries and petrochemical plants to process its crude into plastics and fertilizers.
Saleh said investments in the oil industry and agriculture will probably be easier to attract than other sectors given the country’s vast crude reserves, available land and water wealth.
Total land offered for investments to grow “strategic crops” is nearly 1,500 square kilometers (580 square miles). Iraq, one of the world’s largest wheat importers, aims to achieve self-sufficiency and possibly become a net exporter of the grain.
“We feel there will be support for Iraq, from the Americans, the Europeans, the Arab countries, the United Nations, and humanitarian organizations,” said Saleh.


OPEC, Russia rebuff Trump’s call for immediate boost to oil output

Updated 23 September 2018
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OPEC, Russia rebuff Trump’s call for immediate boost to oil output

ALGIERS: OPEC’s leader Saudi Arabia and its biggest oil-producer ally outside the group, Russia, ruled out on Sunday any immediate, additional increase in crude output, effectively rebuffing US President Donald Trump’s calls for action to cool the market.
“I do not influence prices,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih told reporters as OPEC and non-OPEC energy ministers gathered in Algiers for a meeting that ended with no formal recommendation for any additional supply boost.
Benchmark Brent oil reached $80 a barrel this month, prompting Trump to reiterate on Thursday his demand that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries lower prices.
The price rally mainly stemmed from a decline in oil exports from OPEC member Iran due to fresh US sanctions.
“We protect the countries of the Middle East, they would not be safe for very long without us, and yet they continue to push for higher and higher oil prices! We will remember. The OPEC monopoly must get prices down now!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Falih said Saudi Arabia had spare capacity to increase oil output but no such move was needed at the moment.
“My information is that the markets are adequately supplied. I don’t know of any refiner in the world who is looking for oil and is not able to get it,” Falih said.
However, he signalled Saudi Arabia stood ready to increase supply if Iran’s output fell: “Whatever takes place between now and the end of the year in terms of supply changes will be addressed.”
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said no immediate output increase was necessary, although he believed a trade war between China and the United States as well as US sanctions on Iran were creating new challenges for oil markets.
Oman’s Oil Minister Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Rumhy and Kuwaiti counterpart Bakhit Al-Rashidi told reporters after Sunday’s talks that producers had agreed they needed to focus on reaching 100 percent compliance with production cuts agreed in June.
That effectively means compensating for falling Iranian production. Al-Rumhy said the exact mechanism for doing so had not been discussed.
The statement from Trump, meanwhile, was not his first criticism of OPEC.
Higher gasoline prices for US consumers could create a political headache for Republican Trump before mid-term congressional elections in November.
Iran, OPEC’s third-largest producer, has accused Trump of orchestrating the oil price rally by imposing sanctions on Tehran and accused its regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia of bowing to US pressure.
On Sunday, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Trump’s tweet “was the biggest insult to Washington’s allies in the Middle East.”
OPEC OUTPUT FALLS AGAIN
Seeking to reverse a downturn in oil prices that began in 2014, OPEC, Russia and other allies decided in late 2016 to reduce supply by some 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd).
In June this year, however, after months of cutting by more than their pact had called for, largely due to involuntary reductions from Venezuela and other producers, they agreed to boost output by returning to 100 percent compliance.
That equates to an increase of about 1 million bpd, but latest data show they are some way from achieving that target.
In August, OPEC and its allies cut production by 600,000 bpd more than their pact required, mainly as a result of falling output in Iran as customers in Europe and Asia reduced purchases ahead of the US sanctions deadline.
Iran told OPEC its production had been steady in August at 3.8 million bpd. OPEC’s own estimates, according to its secondary sources such as researchers and ship-trackers, put Iranian output at 3.58 million bpd.
Falih said returning to 100 percent compliance was the main objective and should be achieved in the next two-three months.
Although he refrained from specifying how that could be done, Saudi Arabia is the only oil producer with significant spare capacity.
“We have the consensus that we need to offset reductions and achieve 100 percent compliance, which means we can produce significantly more than we are producing today if there is demand,” Falih said.
“The biggest issue is not with the producing countries, it’s with the refiners, it’s with the demand. We in Saudi Arabia have not seen demand for any additional barrel that we did not produce.”
OPEC also decided on Sunday to adjust the dates of its next meeting to Dec. 6-7 from the earlier-agreed Dec. 3.
The joint OPEC/non-OPEC ministerial monitoring committee will next meet on Nov. 11 in Abu Dhabi.