Samar Rassam, Oil and Gas specialist, Iraq
By Samar Rassam-Whitticombe, CEO of Somer Industrial Projects (SIP)
My focus this issue is two-fold; firstly political stability and secondly the creation of a sustainable, successful private sector to promote a positive business and physical environment. I also believe that to meet the future needs of our country head-on, we must create the right skills and education for our people.
On the 8th September Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haidar al-Abadi, succeeded in forming a new government. After a delay other key posts have been filled and two new ministers have also been named. The Defence Minister is Khaled al-Obaidi and the new Interior Minister is Mohammed al-Ghabban.This new, more inclusive, cabinet can be seen as a way forward in these uncertain times. If it is successful it will lead to a unified Iraq, where all ethnic groups, whether Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Turkomans, Yazidis or Christians have a chance at stability.This political stability is the key to unlocking economic development. Without political stability our economies cannot grow, in turn, stronger economies help us achieve greater political stability. I am hoping, along with my fellow Iraqis, that this new chapter will encourage investment and economic progress.
In September I was invited to attend The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris. I was part of a small Iraqi delegation, which consisted of three of us (2 women). Other than youth unemployment we discussed the gender pay gap in the MENA region. I am proud to say that I was able to point out that in Iraq women are on equal pay to men when working in the Government sector!
So, back to Oil and Gas. In late October I met with an Iraqi delegation in Germany. The occasion was discussions around the FAO Pumping Station Al Faw – Basra. The team consisted of 21 delegates, 5 of whom were women engineers covering different disciplines (Process, Electrical, Instrument, legal and Costing). The team were discussing the detailed design for the project with the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor. I was very happy to learn from the EPC chairman that Iraqis are known for their outstanding skill base and excellent technical knowledge.
The delegation also brought trainee engineers. This of course provided a fantastic opportunity for them to experience working with a contractor directly. This kind of real life experience is essential in terms of skills creation. In fact, we were discussing the subject of life-long learning as a group. All of us felt strongly that everyone should be constantly learning and evolving their skills. Stronger co-ordination between ministries, the private sector and NGOs would help to develop entrepreneurial learning for all levels of education, whilst developing more women entrepreneurs also.
For this group of engineers Health, safety and Environment (HSE) was particularly hot topic. It is generally felt that environmental issues are behind general standards and that Iraq therefore needs to have a more comprehensive health, safety and environment policy. These trainee engineers see themselves as part of the solution which is a huge (and welcome) paradigm shift.
Everyone I have met and worked with since the last edition of Nina shares the same vision. We are insisting on a vision and a frame-work that prioritises sustainable jobs through lifelong education, demands equal pay and protects our environment. Despite ongoing instabilities, external investors are still looking at Iraq as a great opportunity. I personally believe that Iraq’s journey continues to be relevant on a global scale. The truth is, we all carry a sadness for what has happened to our country, but from the flames the phoenix rises. We will learn from this catastrophe and build a bright future for the next generation.
Our next issue is out early December – Samar’s Column will be featured in full.