The International Energy Agency and the Government of Iraq hosted a high-level Ministerial roundtable on Thursday on investment and economic reforms in Iraq, with a particular focus on the country’s electricity and gas sectors.
The virtual meeting brought together senior Iraqi Ministers and policymakers, Ministers from IEA countries, CEOs and leaders of energy companies as well as international financial institutions, who discussed how to ensure that Iraq’s energy sector can continue its recovery at a time of constrained government budgets and tighter financing environments.
Participants from the Government of Iraq included Mr. Ali Allawi, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance; Mr. Ihsan Ismaeel, the Minister of Oil; Mr. Majid Hantoush, the Minister of Electricity; and Ms. Suha Najjar, an advisor to the Prime Minister.
The roundtable also heard from several other top government officials, including Mr. Dan Brouillette, the U.S. Secretary of Energy; Mr Kwasi Kwarteng, Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth of the United Kingdom; Ambassador Francois Delattre, Secretary-General of France’s Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs; as well as senior executives of Siemens Energy, GE Gas Power, Total, Eni, BP, Bechtel and Crescent Petroleum.
The discussions reviewed the role that the new Iraqi government sees for the private sector in developing the country’s electricity and natural gas sectors, as well as measures needed to spur investment by energy companies. The meeting followed a call in May between Iraq’s Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, and the IEA’s Executive Director, Dr Fatih Birol, agreeing to work together, particularly in the area of electricity and gas reform.
“Iraq reforming its economy is not a matter for debate. It is essential, and it is vital that reforms are comprehensive and timely,” said Mr. Allawi. “The meeting today with the IEA highlighted the Government of Iraq’s seriousness in its endeavour to fundamentally reform its economy, including the energy sector, which we want to be a driver of growth and development.”
“The IEA has been a steadfast supporter of Iraq’s reforms, and we are especially encouraged by the Government’s clear-sighted and comprehensive vision for economic development,” said Dr Birol. “The energy sector will be a crucial linchpin here – stable and affordable electricity can spur the private sector growth that Iraq needs to diversify. Iraq can continue to count on the IEA’s support in this area of the reform, and we want to encourage private investments and international public support to ensure its success.”
The meeting is the latest in a series of top-level engagements that the IEA has undertaken in support of the Government of Iraq in recent years. Last year, the IEA published an in-depth analysis of the country’s energy sector, examining the problems affecting Iraq’s power sector and offering recommendations to address the situation, including the potential role of renewables. The report, Iraq’s Energy Sector: A Roadmap to a Brighter Future, also took a detailed look at the country’s oil and gas industry and its prospects for the next decade.
Since then, the drop in oil prices due to the Covid-19 pandemic has severely curtailed the government’s ability to spend on critical infrastructure. As a response to the economic and financial strain, the new government is exploring avenues to fundamentally reform its economy to reduce the burden on state finances, incentivise private sector growth, and make the economy more resilient to future oil price movements.