Economic diversification: key opening message of Kurdistan Iraq Economic Forum 2020

qubad talabaniHis Excellency Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan regional government opened the Kurdistan Iraq Economic Forum 2020 by outlining the Kurdistan region's aspiration to embrace economic diversity by developing other sectors outside oil and gas

Speaking with Talabani, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former ambassador to the UN, began the opening remarks by outlining the fierce challenges the Kurdistan region has vied with over the past twenty years, topped off by the Covid-19 pandemic damaging oil prices and the industry. Yet, despite these, the former ambassador noted that the people and government of the Kurdistan region have bravely confronted all these problems, and in the face of the one of the most uncertain years in living memory the Kurdistan regional government have decided to embrace reform and a drive towards economic diversity to ensure the future stability of the region. 

Talabani noted that while the oil and gas industry remains a key sector for the Kurdistan region, and will be critical for years to come, there has been an over-reliance on these resources. This can be problematic in times when prices on these commodities fall, as is the case today. Therefore, the Kurdistan regional government has adopted a plan to diversify the economy by expanding the tourism, agriculture and technological sectors while developing stronger infrastructure to support this. 

Attracting international, as well as local, investment is vital for this future, and so Talabani outlined his government’s reforms such as digitalisation and an inquiry into ghost employees to tackle corruption, streamlining defence forces to create a more cost-effective but proficient military to ensure the security of the region, and strengthening the public sector to support more investment. Central to this process will also be harmonising relations with the Iraq government in future fiscal budgets to ensure potential international companies have more clarity and are more assured over financial stability. 

The challenges are big, but Talabani remained positive and welcomed the opening of the forum to discuss solutions and attract potential investors going forward. 

He concluded, “Kurdistan is safer, more transparent, and the willingness to partner with the international private sector will always be a competitive advantage. We want to make sure Kurdistan is open to investment.”

The Kurdistan Iraq Economic Forum will run from the 17-18 of November 2020, and is hosted by GFEn and CWC and is sponsored by Chevron.

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