ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The American-Kurdish Economic Institute (AKEI) on Wednesday organized a conference on how to improve the Kurdish economic sector ahead of the United States government imposing a new set of sanctions on Iran’s oil and petrochemical sector on November 5, which will also affect the Kurdish economy.
The event focused on the development of the manufacturing sector in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
“What we are trying to do as an economic institution is focus on all economic sectors in Kurdistan and how Kurdistan can improve and develop other industries, not just oil,” Tara Shwan, Executive Director of the AKEI, told Kurdistan 24.
“We all know that Iraq, in general, is dependant on revenue from the oil trade, and 95 percent of all of its income comes from oil,” she explained. “We saw that when oil prices went down, two, three years ago, the Iraqi and Kurdistan economy was hit with a crisis.”
Therefore, she said, the AKEI organized this conference to see what problems and challenges ail the manufacturing sector in Kurdistan and how they can be remedied.
“The manufacturing sector is a very vital industry in any economic system,” she argued. “Especially in this country [with an-oil-based economy], it is underdeveloped. That’s why we organized this event, to focus more on these other sectors.”
“The Kurdistan economy should rely on itself, and not surrounding countries. We see that now, notably since Iran has been hit by an economic crisis, and sanctions will follow that will impact the Kurdistan economy,” she said.
Both the Kurdistan Region and Iran have substantial economic ties, accounting for billions of dollars annually in trade. The Kurdistan Region is looking for alternatives to obtain goods it imports from Iran, Kurdish officials say.
The Kurdistan Region relies extensively on Iran for various products, produce, and other food-related imports to the Kurdish semi-autonomous region.
“Kurdistan should be more self-sufficient,” Shwan concluded.
Following the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq last December, Kurdish officials have been trying to attract more investments and build trade relations with foreign companies to boost its economy after suffering from a financial crisis over the past few years.
Due to the rise of oil prices and Baghdad resuming its payments of government salaries in 2018, the economic situation in Kurdistan has slightly improved. Nevertheless, the private sector remains underdeveloped.
A number of American companies visited Erbil and met with Kurdish businessmen earlier this month with an eye on investing in various industries in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.
“The Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG] welcomes foreign companies and investors in different areas and will provide necessary aids,” stressed KRG PM Nechirvan Barzani during the meeting with the delegation, according to a statement released by his office.
“There are opportunities in the Kurdistan Region for developing an economic foundation and attracting investors,” members of the delegation were quoted as expressing.
Editing by Nadia Riva