x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Too tricky for some to operate

In 2008, Najah Jawad al Balaghi made an ill-fated move to Iraq as his company, Aqeeq of Kuwait, began developing and operating Najaf International Airport.

In 2008, Najah Jawad al Balaghi made an ill-fated move to Iraq as his company, Aqeeq of Kuwait, began developing and operating Najaf International Airport.

Now back in London after the venture lost millions and its partnership with the governate of Najaf broke down, Mr al Balaghi talks to The National about his experiences.

What went wrong for you in your experience with Najaf International Airport?

aIt was the political insecurity and meddling, a shaky regulatory framework, the lack of adequate checks and balances to protect investors and an ongoing culture clash between Iraqis and Kuwaitis.

Do you think the Iraqi market has good growth prospects?

Iraq's aviation industry is on a revitalised growth path and there are countless opportunities for airport and logistics infrastructure-related projects, which are under consideration in Iraq since 2003. However, there is still no ideal platform for companies to explore new ventures and partnerships.

Do you think the government protects foreign companies that invest there?

There is a clear deficiency of basic knowledge about policies and law with respect to investment generally, including aviation. When the government is capable of protecting itself then it may possibly protect the local population and others, such as investors.

What are your recommendations for private companies thinking of doing business in Iraq?

Iraq recently inaugurated a new court formed to resolve disputes between foreign investors and Iraqi companies as part of efforts to encourage investment into its economy. Private companies must conduct a market research on the viability of their investment and consider the risk factors. However, if the private company is enthusiastic and optimistic of doing business without planning ahead, the venture could be at risk.

What are your recommendations for the government of Iraq to promote foreign companies to set up in the country?

The government of Iraq has recently realised the importance of foreign investment and, as a result, government delegates have exhibited in travel shows and participated in events, conferences and meetings. However, there is so much to accomplish on the ground. The government needs to tackle corruption, uncertain legal protections and inadequate government oversight. — Ivan Gale