2-23-11 Indian businessmen have started exploring Iraq for business opportunities. But the greatest hurdle that prevents an influx of Indian workers to Iraq is the security issue.
As Iraq, devastated by the US-led assault, followed by long years of sectarian fighting and violence degenerating into a civil war, limps back to normalcy and reconstruction activity gathers pace, a lot of business and employment opportunities are opening up.
Indian businessmen have started exploring the region for business opportunities, and the smaller ones are gingerly feeling their way around the place, sniffing out economic opportunities.
In both Karbala and Najaf, new hotels and restaurants are coming up, and skilled labour is required to manage these. Hotel Zum Zum is a three-star hotel in Najaf, about 100 km from Baghdad, and its owner is desperate to get hotel management graduates and other staff such as waiters to man the hotel.
Tourist facilities in Iraq don’t come cheap; anyway, apart from religious tourism which is booming in the twin cities of Najaf and Karbala which house the shrines of Imam Ali (Najaf) and his sons Hussein and Abbas (Karbala), Iraq has not much tourism to speak about. So this hotel, where a room costs upward of $250, is occupied mainly by the elite who come for pilgrimage or businessmen.
Bangladeshis arrive early
As in many European countries where Bangladeshis are the earliest to arrive, through legal or illegal channels, in Iraq too, one can find Bangladeshi labour almost everywhere. Working as waiters, porters, building workers, sweepers, and so on, they get paid around $300-350.
Hakim and Shoaib are two young men working in the hotel I stayed in as helpers. Each of them has given about $2500 to their agent back home to land this job and nearly $75 a month from their monthly pay will go to the agent for some time. “As we get accommodation and food, we save most of the money to send back home to our families,” says Hakim, a smiling, friendly person, who has picked up a smattering of Hindi as many Indians stay in this hotel.
But the owner of the more posh Zum Zum Hotel is willing to pay upward of $600-700 to get semi-skilled, but trained people to work in his hotel. But apparently, the Iraq government and business establishments here are saying ‘No’ to Bangladeshis and are keen to get workers from India to man their establishments.
What about Iraqis, I ask Mohsin, who owns a small shop filled with exquisite crockery from the UK, Japan and cheaper stuff from China.
“Oh no, they don’t have much education and years of free food from the government has made them lazy. But Indians, we know, are very hardworking.”
Security, an issue
But the greatest hurdle that prevents an influx of Indian workers to Iraq is the security issue. Baghdad, in particular, one is told, is the most dangerous place to live in or run a business from. Most of the offices, both government and private, open around 7.30 a.m. and down their shutters by 2.30 p.m. It is considered advisable to be secure in your homes by 3 p.m.
When I raise the security question, Jameel (name changed on request), an Indian businessman, who came to Iraq looking for business opportunities 18 months ago and has settled down in Najaf, says both Karbala and Najaf, where there is not only a high, but efficient, degree of security in place to guard the priceless shrines from attacks, are absolutely safe.
“I supply different kinds of pipes to various oil refineries in Najaf, Kurdistan and Basra; business is rocking and profits are good, and have never faced any problem.” He commutes to Baghdad at least three-four times a month.
He has taken on an Iraqi partner, “not because it is compulsory, as in Dubai, but convenient… one thing is the language, I am only picking up Arabic now. But the other thing is dealing with government departments.”
With long years of experience in supplying material to government departments in India, he is conversant with the art of bribing; “without bribes nothing moves in government, and even private establishments in India, and we’ve learnt to cope with that. But nothing compares to the colossal bribes we have to pay here to get our tenders passed.”
But businessmen like him are not complaining “because the usool (principle) of bribe is that the more you corrupt, the higher the profits”.
Most people I talk to on corruption nod their heads, smile and say this is bound to stay for some time. “For long years only Saddam and his family were making money. All the other politicians were poor in both body and mind. So, now, they are making up for lost time and opportunities, says Hyder, another businessman in Najaf, adding a sentence which is startlingly close to the Indian context.
“Everywhere in the world it is the same old story; one set of people in power make money, and they are thrown out for corruption, and another set comes in to do the same!”
But much more than corruption, he is worried about the laziness and lack of skills and training among the Iraqi youth. Here too the story is so close to our MNREGA scheme, which many complain, is making the labour class lazy and unproductive.
In Saddam’s era, salaries were quite low but 13 essentials items in every family’s requirement, such as rice, flour, cooking oil, soap and shampoo, detergent, etc were given entirely free to the Iraqi people. Apparently, the Iraq government recently tried to discontinue this scheme but met with a near-revolt. In a country where job opportunities are rare, or not suitable for the uneducated and unskilled Iraqis, a sudden cut-off of their monthly ration can spell disaster and trigger the possibility of food riots.
Considering the ugly mood among the youth in the entire Arab world against their rulers, this is not something that the Iraqi government would like to grapple with at the moment. So the free monthly supply scheme stays.
Iraqi Families Living in Huts, Getting by on $4 a Day
Haidar Ali Jawad – 23/02/2011
Live faleeha Hassan in a small house in the center of Baghdad with 11 members of her family, like thousands of other protesters in Iraq does not believe that political leaders are making every effort to improve their lives at the same time, international experts said that the country is suffering the efficiency of officials, which means that the elimination of problems and management reform requires a longer period of time than necessary.
Says faleeha (67 years old), sitting on the ground surrounded باحفادها in the house where living in two decades ago, ” Politicians and leaders are not interested, we have a lot of money and care for others.”
The problems faced by faleeha Hassan and her children واحفادها continues in Iraq since the fall of the regime in 2003.
Her son Sam is the only source of livelihood in this family, through the sale of soup visitors near the shrine of Sheikh Abdul-Qader Al-Kilani.
Medal and five thousand dinars per day (four dollars), by way of comparison, deputy in the parliament, the highest paid Ninety times.
Husband faleeha has become very weak and could not work in, the other son Muhammad in a suicide attack in January (January 2007). The government has reduced the share of the ration card, which is distributed free of charge to the citizens. The ration card system انشيء in the context of the “oil-for-food” in order to “alleviate the” tragic the embargo imposed by the United Nations on Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait.
And that the family of faleeha under poverty line set by the government for $2,20 per person per day.
Government statistics estimated that seven million Iraqis representing five of the people living below the poverty line, the number of which is expected to increase as a result of not receiving about six million households the food rations for six months.
At a time when the prime minister Ambitious plans to reduce poverty in the coming years, reduce from 22 percent to 16 percent of the population by 2015, experts doubt the poor both the possibility of achieving that.
He said mahdi al-` *** under the Iraqi minister of planning, ” This (the problem) is not difficult to solve, because the vast majority of poor people living in the vicinity of this threshold, and if put into practice the right policies and procedures will be this level.”
This talk is true in theory as Iraq has the fourth largest oil reserve in the world and has all the guarantees to increase its income.
But the country has undergone successive conditions destroyed its economy.
The view of the United Nations in a report released the that “wars and sanctions that have contributed to the deterioration of the standard of living of the Iraqi people,” adding that ” this country used to be in the past, the most advanced in the Middle East.”
The government adopted at the end of 2009, ” the national anti-poverty strategy, which included six goals, the creation of jobs and equality between men and women and improve the system of health care and education.
It is due to present in May (may), a preliminary report on what had been carried out.
But experts believe that Iraq was still suffering under the problems make it difficult for the reduction of poverty.
Said Khalid Mohammad Khaled, an analyst at the United Nations Development Programme based in Amman referring to a report by Transparency International, which was Iraq in fourth place among the most corrupt in the world, that “the lack of efficient officials at the local and central levels means that tackling poverty may require more time than expected,” he said.
He added that the country needs more reforms to “, considering that this is the most important to increase the per capita income.
He said he wondered “if there is no better health and education if not create infrastructure, what does it mean to give more money?” he said.
The report calls on the United Nations to diversify the economy, pointing out that the oil sector provides only 1 percent of the posts, even though it is 65 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Iraq.
In the wake of growing popular discontent, the government decided to reduce the salaries of senior officials, including Prime Minister by up to half, and decided to increase the allocation التموينة to four billion dollars.
Says the morning (60 years old), a mother of eight and only one of them that all this does not convince those suffering from poverty.
She said the morning, who lives in a hut in a dump waste in zafaraniyah region southeast of Baghdad, ” We have no hope.”
She adds ” Here there is no water, no electricity, no schools. Why we live so? Don’t countries rich in oil and gas? ” he said.