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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » September 2, 2011
Special National Section: Iraq in Poland
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Road to Democracy
September 2, 2011   
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Saad J. Kindeel, Iraq’s ambassador to Poland, talks to Beata Tymińska.

You have been in Poland for over a year. What are your impressions of the country?
I am quite impressed by a country and a nation which have been ruled by a totalitarian dictatorship for about five decades and which managed to lead other nations to their freedom and managed to rebuild its economy and political system within one decade. I see Poland today as a country well established within the European Union as well as NATO and currently heading the EU Council and Eastern Partnership. I see Poland as a modern state with a young democracy that managed to go smoothly through five elections to choose its leaders through the ballot box. I must also voice my great admiration and respect for how the nation maintained high morale while coming out of a serious crisis when a large part of its leaders were killed in the Smolensk air crash in April last year.

What similarities do you see between Iraq and Poland?
The two countries have been ruled by a totalitarian dictatorship for decades. Poland started the process of transition to democracy and a free market economy in 1989, 14 years before Iraq did in 2003. The Polish experience of political transition being still fresh and active is a source of inspiration for Iraq, which is now going through a political process similar to what Poland went through in the 1990s.

What is the situation in Iraq now?
Iraq post-2003 has managed to put an end to military occupation and gained its sovereignty. Iraq today has a constitution voted for by 80 percent of its people, held three parliamentary elections and two municipal elections. The UN security council voted to end sanctions on Iraq under chapter 7 of the UN charter.

The number of victims of violence and the number of incidents has dropped to 10 percent of the peak level in 2006. The security situation continues to improve under the government’s national reconciliation program and plans to raise the combat readiness of the security forces.

By the end of this year, the remaining 50,000 American troops stationed in Iraq will leave the country, ending a military occupation that lasted nearly nine years. Normal life is beginning to resume, economic activity is being revived, demand for all types of goods and services is growing fast. The government announced a five-year investment plan worth $186 billion with a target of rebuilding the country’s entire infrastructure from power, water utilities and transport infrastructure to residential housing, which benefited from the highest spending and was top priority under government plans. At the same time the government is investing in essential economic infrastructure, including oil and gas fields, mid and downstream pipeline projects, and the petrochemical and fuel distribution sectors.

How can Poland help in Iraq’s reconstruction program? How can it work with Iraq?
During the 1970s and 1980s Polish companies were active in Iraq, particularly in agriculture, construction and civil engineering projects. As Iraq was under economic sanctions during the 1990s, the trade balance between the two countries dropped to zero. Iraq today is open for business to all international companies who are competing for a foothold in the country. I believe the volume of demand in the agriculture and construction sectors coupled with past Polish involvement in these two sectors make them attractive for Polish companies that want to re-establish their foothold.

What guarantees can the government of Iraq provide to encourage foreign investors to do business there?
The Iraqi parliament passed investment law number 13 in 2006, which protected foreign investment against nationalization or confiscation. The law also allowed investing companies to employ foreign workers and repatriate their wages as well as profits from investment. The law provides a lot of benefits for investors, most important of which are tax exemptions and exemptions from import fees for equipment required for investment projects.

What difficulties do Polish companies face in doing business in Iraq?
Polish companies are hesitant to enter the Iraqi market due to their perception of the security situation in Iraq. Most companies are not familiar with Iraq’s social environment or Iraqi bureaucracy. In my opinion Polish companies are not up to date with current security situation in Iraq. Terrorist attacks against political or economic targets have almost disappeared. Violence in Iraq has dropped to about 10 percent of the peak in 2006 and is targeting only “soft” targets, for example suicide attacks against random crowds in the street. I am proposing that Polish companies link up with local partners who are more familiar with the Iraqi system and take on any security risk involved by providing the labor, while Polish companies provide material and expertise.

What else would you like to tell the readers of The Warsaw Voice?
My message to Polish companies is that Iraq is going through a business boom. Now is the right time to step in. The earlier you get in, the more opportunities you will have.

My message to Polish people is to think about spending a holiday in Iraq and visit the place of the first civilization in human history, to visit the birthplace of Prophet Abraham and enjoy the remarkable landscapes of Mesopotamia, the fertile land between two rivers, which has been identified with the legendary paradise Eden.
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