BASRA | Iraq, buy Turkish, iranian or jordanian is the norm. Same dates, the fruit of the tree is the national emblem of the country, come from the Gulf. But the containment decreed for the fight against the COVID-19 slowly starts to change.
Amine Qassem is rather straightforward. For him, the global pandemic, which was relatively unscathed from Iraq, with about 170 deaths identified, is a godsend.
“The crisis has allowed us to make our evidence on the iraqi market” and welcomes the man who has opened his factory of ice-cream in 2006 in Basra, the second largest city of Iraq, whose sub-soil contains most of the oil in the country is the second largest producer of OPEC.
Before, in the face of foreign products, the “made in Iraq” had no chance. Too expensive, in quantities that are too small, too long to produce, the local did not have all the attractions of the production chain-from beyond borders.
To return to his own market
But with these same closed borders at the time of the confinement of planetary mills, iraqi — whose number has been reduced to a trickle by a decade of embargo and two other violence and wars to repeat — have finally been able to pull their pin of the game.
“We managed to re-enter markets where the imports we crushed them,” said to the AFP Mr. Qassem, whose 3,000 employees package each time the 144,000 cones, batônnets and other cornets glacés sent by pallet elsewhere in Iraq.
And even to increase the margins, ” adds the entrepreneur who does not need “to break prices in the face of the ice-iranian cheap to avoid losing inventory, which were based without being sold”.
In Iraq, the figures are misleading: if the trade balance is still largely in surplus, it is that it is artificially inflated by the oil.
Thus in 2018, according to the world trade Organization, Iraq has exported 97.2 billion US $ of goods and services — but it was oil and gas 98 %.
At the same time, it imported 70 billion US $ of goods and services as varied as electricity, tomatoes, or cars, or frozen chicken.
Oil and austerity
But today, with crude prices almost divided by three, Iraq is on the brink of the financial abyss.
It has already started to impose import taxes claimed for years by local producers to be strangled — a new income increased from US $ 2.5 million for the first half of April to 7.3 million in may .
And reduce its purchases abroad: according to the international monetary Fund (IMF), the imports that iraqi will move from 92 billion US $ in 2019 to $ 81 billion in 2021.
In April already, chinese imports were melted: of nearly a billion US $ four months earlier, they have barely reached 775 million US $ in April, according to figures from Beijing. Next to Iran, they went from 450 million US $ per month to 300 million, with only the border crossings with iraqi Kurdistan re-opened, and since little.
In this context, the diversification of the economy and the re-route of the flagships industrial past, looted and ransacked at the discretion of the wars, are now an imperative.
The State can not hire account on the private sector to create wealth and jobs.
Hadi Aboud, produced of plastic pipes. In addition to the private sector almost non-existent, the banking system in its infancy, and low taxes on imports, it must also confront competitors in the devalued currency — Iran — or to the costs of production minimal — China.
Miraculous catch of fish.
But, assures the man with white hair combed carefully, the rebound in the midst of a crisis of the COVID-19 has been spectacular. Now, ” he said to AFP, “I sell plastic pipes even before their manufacture”.
With a full order book full, and chains that don’t stop to mould, cut and Polish massive cylinders proudly stamped “Made in Iraq”, the plant manager may not see behind his mask that the “situation has changed”.
The change, in his city of Basra, the only coastal city of the country, those who have perhaps the most felt, are the fishermen and the fishmongers.
“There is about a month, there has been a lot more fish”, tells the AFP Mohammed Fadhel, who every day sets up its stand at the central market.
“The Kuwaitis and the Iranians will only leave more,” he explains, so the fishermen iraqis, the Gulf, and all its fish for them all alone.
The result, he says, the fishing is so miraculous that the price per kilo of zoubeidi, a local sea bream, “is increased from 20 000 to 11 000 dinars”, or 22 to $ 12.
And it’s not in the sea as sources of income multiply.
To satisfy the new demand, Hani Aboud has planned to recruit: soon, he hopes to go from 100 to 150 employees.