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Iraq is biggest-ever emerging market: Deputy PM

Iraq is biggest-ever emerging market: deputy PM

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AFP) - Iraq's deputy prime minister said on Monday that his country was the world's largest-ever emerging market, with foreign companies lining up to invest in the war-ravaged economy.

"Iraq is the largest ever emerging market that you can think of," Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh told journalists at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh.

"There is nothing in Iraq that doesn't require investment, but the state cannot solve it and so we look seriously to the private sector."

He said that Iraq was predicting 70 billion dollars oil revenue in 2008, with reserves that "could well exceed" 350 billion barrels, and the International Monetary Fund slating eight percent growth this year.

"It hasn't taken off yet, but when it does take off, it will be very fast," Saleh said of the ravaged economy.

Vaunting Iraq's investment opportunities, Saleh said that a tender to turn a large former army garrison in Baghdad into housing had seen "applications from 30 major international companies, mostly from the Gulf and Egypt".

But Saleh, a former prime minister of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan-run region of Iraqi Kurdistan, stressed that the private sector would have to do what the state was unable to do.

"After decades of mismanagement we need to call a spade a spade and admit that the state can't do it," he said of the oil sector.

He admitted that confusion remained for foreign companies wanting to invest in oil exploration and exploitation in the north of the country over which authority to sign the contracts with, Baghdad, or the Kurdistan regional government.

The government in Baghdad and authorities in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq have been at loggerheads over contracts signed between the Kurds and foreign oil companies for months.

And Saleh said a national oil law to resolve the problem would not be finalised any time soon.

Iraq is biggest-ever emerging market: Deputy PM - Source

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