Andreas Carleton-Smith is the director of operations in Iraq for Control Risks, a security company. He talks about the importance of brokering the right types of business relationships without crossing into unethical territory.
What is your report card on Iraq?
There is huge opportunity and potential, but it's not without risk. That risk is less to do with security and more to do with the bureaucracy of the place: issues such as corruption; finding partners and, obviously, the right partners.
Is corruption sometimes part of making things happen?
One's got to recognise that this is part of the way of life in many countries, but everyone's got to do their bit to try to eradicate it. We have a policy of zero tolerance. If it means we don't have a licence to operate for 10 days, it means we don't have a licence to operate for 10 days, and we're not going to succumb to it. It does have a financial impact on the business, but we have high standards.
How do you navigate the system?
We hire some very excellent Iraqis who have got the requisite relationships in the ministries. They are able to meet the relevant people to try and broker those relationships to try and get those registrations and licensing done in an efficient and timely way. Much of this comes down to relationships.
How do you coach foreigners on how to build such relationships in Iraq?
It's just a question of introducing yourself. If you speak the language that's a big help. But being understanding and respectful, and being prepared to take your time and not to rush things, are probably some of the things that are important to conducting successful business relationships in a place like Iraq.
Are there any countries Iraq can look to as a development model?
Iraq's rather unique in many respects, which for so many years was in neglect. People always look to Nigeria as a possible example. Emerging oil economies such as Sudan will have issues like this where you have to really build the infrastructure from scratch.
What's your forecast for Iraq over the next few years?
As a company we're very bullish about Iraq and its prospects. It has gone through its second elections and it has an independent and transparent media. The security situation is improving. Improving the conditions for the Iraqi people is a key consideration, and getting to a point where the electricity isn't being turned off is very important to getting to a point where there isn't any civil unrest. Iraq might well be in a situation where it could be a model of democracy. With other places in the area going through their own turmoil, Iraq might be one to model themselves on.