London, United Kingdom (uk.gov.krd), The Kurdistan Regional Government United Kingdom Representation in partnership with the CWC Group and Global Future Energy hosted the first virtual forum on Kurdistan Economic Diversification in London, evaluating the current diversification strategies and underlining the targets set out in the KRG’s vision to provide a stable path for equitable growth and development.
The forum brought together the KRG officials and key leaders and experts in the energy sector. The opening remark was delivered by the KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, highlighting the importance of taking coordinated global action to overcome economic challenges caused in part by the global pandemic. He also noted that the Kurdistan Regional Government has put diversification at the very core of the KRG’s economic strategies and planning. He underscored that these steps will continue to unlock the Kurdistan Region’s potential as a regional hub for trade and commerce.
Recognising the importance of ongoing reforms, the Deputy Prime Minister explained how the biometric system will allow for the streamlining and restructuring of the public sector, which will create greater accountability toward the citizens of the Kurdistan Region, adding that the system has so far identified 16,500 cases of misappropriated salaries.
On Erbil-Baghdad relations, the Deputy Prime Minister emphasised that securing a fair and constitutional resolution to outstanding problems with the federal government of Iraq remains a top priority and critical for the stability of the country. He reiterated that the Kurdistan Regional Government is prepared to negotiate a comprehensive power and revenue-sharing agreement on borders and oil and gas exports, having already agreed to an audit of its revenues from the past six years.
HE Safeen Dizayee, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraq underscored the importance of reducing dependency on the oil and gas sector to make the economy more resilient. The Minister emphasised the need for “strong regulatory and institutional frameworks to further develop other sectors of the economy. He also called upon the UK and international partners to share experience and best practices for a transition period towards a stronger economy.
With respect to the challenges of the economic development, HE Dr Amanj Raheem, Cabinet Minister, Member of the Oil & Gas Council, Kurdistan Regional Government reflected on the security, financial and humanitarian crisis which have hindered the government to fully implement the diversification process. He indicated that the KRG is currently enacting reforms to overcome the crisis and build a more robust economy in the future. Structural reforms have begun to tackle the longer-term challenge of transforming the public sector and promoting diversification of the economy.
HE Karwan Jamal, the Kurdistan Region High Representative to the UK also opened the forum by underlining the KRG UK Representation’s mission to promote deeper economic link and build more commercial relations with the UK through providing information and regular updates on the situation in Kurdistan and to deliver an annual programme of high quality trade missions to markets of strategic importance. He said: “KRG is also committed to a comprehensive reform within the public and private sectors to restore fiscal balance, also to revisit the regulatory framework for foreign investment to be in line with today’s circumstances in coordination with Kurdistan Parliament. This year my government has announced many strategic infrastructure projects across Kurdistan Region from highway roads, industry and dams which contribute to diversification objectives, creating 1000th opportunities that would direct the nation from been consumer only to become a productive nation.
HE Nadhim Zahawi MP, Under-Secretary, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial. Strategy, UK reiterated the historical ties between the United Kingdom and the Kurdistan Region and the vision for future partnership to build a deeper cooperation for mutual benefit.
During the forum, Dr Nazar M. S. Numan, Provost, the American University of Kurdistan examined ways on how to attract FDIs to the non – oil sectors, stressing the importance of streamlining education and vocational training towards the skills needed in the private sector.
The session was also addressed by Matthew M. Zais, Ph.D. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of International Affairs, US Department of Energy, reaffirming the potential of energy resources which provides the necessary facilitator for the development of other sectors of the economy. He also stated that Iraq and Kurdistan Region could benefit from the gas to generate electricity.
In addition, James Thornton, British Consul-General in Erbil also participated at the forum, reaffirming the UK’s continuous efforts in supporting the Kurdistan region, mainly the Ministry of Peshmerga and settling the longstanding disputes between Erbil and Bagdad.
Finally, Rt Hon Alistair Burt, Former Foreign Office Minister and a Global Partners Governance Associate reflected upon factors which contributes to the stability and prosperity of the region. He also reiterated efforts to attract foreign investment in the diversification process.
The first day of the forum was concluded by debating how energy can enrich economic diversification and integration throughout the value chain as well as balancing diversification and integration. A number of panellists participated in the session.