Iraq’s Oil Minister claims that fear of powerful politicians causes “corruption that slows the economy.”
According to the Associated Press, Iraqi Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar Ismail blames uncertainty and delays in the ministry on the fear of influential politicians whose interests are not met.
“This is the culture: to avoid any case, to avoid inspectors, and to say, ‘Let us not do it.’ “I believe it is corruption that is slowing the economy,” he told the Associated Press.
Ismail, as oil minister, has attempted to expedite projects. He expressed optimism that signed contracts for significant projects to expand Iraq’s gas capacity by 3 billion cubic feet by 2025 will be signed in the coming months.
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Iraq’s oil is now trading around $68 per barrel, close to the $76 required for the country to run without relying on the central bank to cover its spending needs.
Ismail took on the terrible task of overseeing Iraq’s most important industry at a time when oil prices were plummeting, slashing earnings by more than half last year. Since then, he’s had to strike a balance between domestic demands for more cash to fill state coffers and OPEC pressure to maintain exports low in order to maintain the global oil market stable.
Ismail told the Associated Press that now that the industry is recovering, he can focus on other concerns. In the interview, he gave a rare peek into the inner workings of Iraq’s most important ministry—the oil business accounts for 90% of the country’s revenue.
During his and his predecessors’ tenures, he detailed how ruthless Iraqi politics and corruption worries frequently stalled vital investment projects, causing long-term unhappiness for international businesses doing business in Iraq.
“The great mistake, the great challenge in the Ministry of Oil is the delays in decision-making or no decision-making at all,” he said, blaming indecisiveness on fear of political retaliation from groups or influential MPs whose interests aren’t fulfilled.
He described a twisted workplace culture in which political players use allegations of corruption as a tool to get their way—and the mere prospect of being accused of corruption is sometimes enough to prevent high-ranking ministry officials from signing off on critical initiatives.
Top on his list is developing the country’s gas sector, a central condition for Iraq to be eligible for U.S. sanction waivers. This is a brief summary.