KRG Seeks $5 Billion in Loans - Should Foreign Corporate Partners Also Participate?

KRG Seeks $5 Billion in Loans - Should Foreign Corporate Partners Also Participate?
Velma Anne Ruth - Wed Jun 24, 2015 @ 09:04PM
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According to Al Monitor:

"Burdened by a severe budget deficit and an ongoing war against the Islamic State (IS) along a frontier of over 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is seeking to borrow up to $5 billion from private international banks....

"Some parliamentarians told Al-Monitor that the KRG has already approached major banking firms, such as US-based Goldman Sachs and German Deutsche Bank...

"The bill passed by the Kurdish parliament has to be approved by KRG President Massoud Barzani to legally take effect. After it is submitted to him, the president has 15 days to approve or reject the legislation. Many of those opposed to the measure say they are against the government incurring hefty loan sums that the population will have to pay for.

The government is said to be indebted to various local and international firms as well as some foreign countries, with some members of parliament telling Al-Monitor that the KRG has borrowed from countries such as Turkey and the UAE.

[Izzat Sabir, head of the Finance and Economic Affairs Committee in the Kurdistan parliament] said that up until early 2015, the KRG had borrowed 8 trillion Iraqi dinars, approximately $6 billion at current exchange rates. He believes that the KRG's borrowing is justified and voted for the recent bill. "It's important to overcome this crisis," Sabir told Al-Monitor. "The money has to be spent with the knowledge of the parliament for investment and infrastructure projects." He added that the duration set by parliament for repaying the prospective $5 billion debt will be up to 10 years."

As a region of Iraq, like a 'territory' in the early founding years of the United States of America, KRG has limited options in obtaining financial assistance for the Kurdish region, whether in the form of grants, loans, trades, or investments.

The Kurdish region and KRG's financial viability should be evaluated as completely distinct from Baghdad, especially given the economic setbacks that have long ensued in the Erbil-Baghdad struggle.

Consider the 'rule-makers' on sovereign credit ratings: Fitch, Moody's, S&P, even EIU which provide officially referenced measures of financial viability and risk of a country, state, or institution. It would benefit the Kurdistan Regional Government to obtain an official credit rating for themselves from Fitch especially, and perhaps start with Economist Intelligence Unit to provide a base of review.

Since at least 2001, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), major US official lender backed by the US Department of State has rightfully provided substantial credit within the Kurdish region through partnerships with US Corporations doing business in Kurdistan. OPIC is just one of many institutions referring to Fitch and related ratings.

A benefit to OPIC or OPIC equivalent financing is dependence on viable corporate partnerships to secure revenue over a period of years, such as through infrastructure development, reducing risk of default and increasing opportunity for stabilization and growth for all sides: the governance, the corporation, the consumer, and the surrounding community. Take for example the extensive energy resources within the Kurdish region. Stronger corporate partnerships in the energy development sector, which may include joint financing could swiftly enhance access to much needed economic resources, and advance foreign cooperation efforts.

The Kurdish region has an extraordinary number of economic, humanitarian, and military allies throughout the world, and perhaps far more than are recognizable to the international community. The Foreign Affairs Ministry has done a tremendous job in outreach and diplomacy, while maintaining a secured safe haven for 2 million refugees and internally displaced. This is a crucial moment to seize on those alliances and deepen security in what may be a last remaining peaceful area of Iraq for some time.9. image-fc5ef608a97367bc840aeaf68faef3a5000406a4a4de927156f8bfb

Though $5 Billion is a significant ask, from an energy development perspective over 10 years of return, actually $5 Billion is not that much at all, especially if Kurdish energy infrastructure is advanced with viable foreign corporate partnerships.

There are at least 17 countries with corporations involved in energy development in the Kurdish region. An overlapping 15 or more nations are addressing the military situation in Iraqi Kurdistan, if not providing direct assistance such as military training and supplies. Another 14 or more countries or related organizations are advocating for, if not providing humanitarian assistance to the refugee crisis. Many of those nations, especially those involved in energy and military have sovereign wealth funds. According to reports, UAE has over $1 Trillion in sovereign wealth, Saudi Arabia has over $750 Billion, Kuwait has over $500 Billion. The list goes on throughout United States, Canada, Europe, and includes members of PS-5 plus termed members of the UN Security Council.

Understanding the constant challenge Erbil has in obtaining assets that respectably belong to KRG, though processed through Baghdad under current advantages taken by Iraq as the sovereign state; for long-term the KRG may consider applying to the United Nations for non-member observer status at the UN General Assembly. This status may leverage KRG's opportunities to have greater access to direct assistance without constant infringements by Baghdad, may provide assurances to foreign supporters that their contributions will be received by the intended recipient, allow KRG to be more widely recognized as a distinct member of the international community, while also not necessarily separating from Iraq as a member state. There are many Permanent Observers to the United Nations, including non-member states, intergovernmental organizations, and nonprofit institutions.

Certainly, non-member status at the United Nations for the Kurdish Region of Iraq is no quick solution. However, for any organization or leader committed to engagement in the Kurdish region, it is important to consider all the options in protecting our friends, at minimum, from a risk mitigation perspective.

ABS Community Research has been advocating for the refugee crisis in the Kurdish region of Iraq since 2012, at the peak onset of Syrian and Syrian Kurdish refugees. This is all part of ongoing efforts with Kurdish business leaders, where we have maintained commitments to have proceeds from any activities dedicated to the refugee crisis. Following the addition of the Iraqi refugee crisis, per the request of fellow advocates and Kurdish business leaders, ABS established Kurdistan Aid Fund, seeking wider humanitarian and corporate partnership solutions to leverage this crisis. In continuing the quest for humanitarian assistance, ABS is working with partners on Kurdistan Council, an international campaign to promote the significance and viability of Iraqi Kurdish autonomy to regional stability, and open more opportunities for corporations to participate in direct humanitarian assistance, without negatively impacting their bottom lines
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