After Mustafa Al-Kazemi assumed the presidency of the Iraqi government a few months ago, he embarked on a policy of economic and trade openness with the outside, and concluded agreements in various fields with several countries, including Jordan, Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France, America and others.
The Economic City project between Iraq and Jordan was one of the outcomes of the tripartite summit that was held in Baghdad last June, which brought together Jordanian King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi.
The city’s economic importance
The economic city between Iraq and Jordan is expected to have a developmental role, according to the head of the Industrial Cities Authority of the Iraqi Ministry of Industry, Engineer Hamid Awad Muhammad.
He added to Al Jazeera Net that the city, which will have an area of about 5,000 acres () with a width of 2,000 meters and a length of 6000 meters, will provide facilities for the industries of the two countries, and will provide from 50,000 to 100,000 job opportunities for the people of the two countries.
Mohammed explained that the economic city includes three main areas: the industrial city, the two free zones, and the logistical support.
The volume of Jordanian exports to Iraq last year amounted to about 630 million dollars, and non-oil imports about 62 million dollars, according to the Jordanian Department of Statistics.
And on the reasons for not opening the economic city between Iraq and Jordan so far, the head of the Industrial Authority repeated the main reason for the outbreak of the Corona pandemic and the administrative bureaucratic procedures in Baghdad to resolve the city’s legal registration, which was delayed for two years in the name of the Industrial Cities Authority in implementation of Resolution No. 75 of 2018.
Among the other reasons – according to Awad – is the geological survey of the soil of that city, and waiting for the completion of the preliminary economic feasibility study, revealing that the feasibility study is currently being prepared for the purpose of deciding it as an investment opportunity for the developers.
While the specialist in economic affairs, Hussein Thaghb, spoke about the positive side of the economic city, considering that it is located on the international road between the two countries, which will deliver imported goods to all regions of Iraq.
Thagab told Al Jazeera Net that all parties in Iraq must cooperate and join hands to complete the opening of this economic city with regard to customs exemptions for raw materials that support the Iraqi industrial sector, in addition to the important role of the banking system to finance Iraqi industrial projects.
Thughab also stressed that the city will achieve a phased economic feasibility, the percentage of which will rise with the expansion of the city and its embrace of new industries that supply the Iraqi market with products, and thus provide good amounts of money for the federal budget, which can be allocated to import the same materials that are manufactured inside the city, stressing the importance of reproducing the experience of the economic city project in other provinces of the country.
It is noteworthy that the two countries had established in 1981 the Iraqi-Jordanian Company for Industry, and it began its work in 1987 and is headquartered in Baghdad. Jordanian Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply.
And the company’s general manager, Engineer Abdul Ghani Al Jaafar – told Al Jazeera Net – that Jordan is seeking an American loan to establish the economic city.
He added that a meeting of the company’s board of directors will be held in the province of Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan region next Wednesday, during which it is expected that the date of work in the economic city will be announced after obtaining all the information from financing and encouraging features for investors.
He concluded by saying that among the advantages that will be offered to investors from Iraqi ministries such as oil, electricity, fuel and energy at discounted prices, in addition to customs entry and tax exemptions from the Iraqi Ministry of Finance.
On the Iraqi side, the Chairman of the Industrial Cities Authority revealed that the Economic City project was presented as an opportunity for foreign investment companies after completing the initial economic feasibility studies.
No economic benefit
The industrial expert, Aqil Al-Saadi, disagrees with Thug, who sees the lack of importance for these economic cities between Iraq and Jordan, considering them to be just media propaganda and to achieve political ends only.
Al-Saadi warned in an interview with Al-Jazeera Net that the economic city between Iraq and Jordan would negatively affect Iraq’s economy, and its benefit would be for the Jordanian side only by making Iraq an importer only and entering Jordanian goods without customs duties “and killing the local industry and not exporting it.”
Al-Saadi wondered why there is a government effort to open an economic city in the desert, 17 hours away from the capital, in addition to the presence of terrorist sleeper cells in that border area that lacks infrastructure, qualified roads, and electricity?
He suggested to the government authorities in Baghdad the opening of economic cities within the Iraqi provinces, and that this would contribute to revitalizing the local market and creating new job opportunities instead of the desert border areas.