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Cablegate: Investment Commission Chair: Politics Should Not

VZCZCXRO3245
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #4095 3510845
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 170845Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4892
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 004095

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/I
STATE ALSO PASS USTR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV ECON IZ
SUBJECT: INVESTMENT COMMISSION CHAIR: POLITICS SHOULD NOT
DRIVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1.(SBU) SUMMARY: Iraq's new National Investment Commission
Chair is an ambitious hard-charger who in his first two weeks
on the job (and prior to his confirmation by the Council of
Representatives) has already written implementing regulations
for the 13-month old Foreign Investment Law for both the
national and provincial governments. He wants "100 percent
qualified," loyal and honest staff who are ready to work
hard. He asked for USG support on several initiatives. End
Summary.

2. (SBU) ECONMIN and ECONCOUNS met on December 11 with Dr.
Ahmed Ridha, recently named Chairman of the National
Investment Commission. In that position, Ridha is charged
with, inter alia, drafting and implementing the regulations
for the Foreign Investment Law which was passed by the
Council of Representatives (COR) in October 2007. Ridha is
the third formal nominee; two other names were never passed
to the CoR for approval. Right off the bat Ridha asked for
USG help in securing office space; he said he wanted a five
story building within the International Zone (IZ) and a small
office outside the IZ. He said his goal would be to lease
out space in the larger building to create an international
trade center and use the revenues to help fund his
operations. EMIN agreed to look into the matter, noting that
space in the IZ was extremely tight, and under the control of
the Prime Minister's office in any case.

3. (SBU) Ridha explained a bit of his personal history;
proudly noting that the UAE is now one of the world's
foremost destinations for foreign investment, he described
himself has having been in charge of UAE foreign investment
programs as well as their statistical offices over the past
twenty years. He also said he was a graduate of the
University of California at Irvine. But he quickly noted the
challenges he faces. In the UAE, he said, everything is
secure -- but in Iraq there is no security and no laws or
even scope for investment. Conversely, he said, in the UAE,
one has to import everything: "even the air," he said, But
Iraq has everything -- water, labor, natural resources. What
Iraq needs, he said, is management and administrative
expertise -- and a new model for investment.

4. (SBU) Ridha said Prime Minister Maliki had given him
great latitude in his operation, as well as giving him the
rank of Minister (Comment: It's unclear to us that this is
the case or if the CoR will confirm such a rank. End
Comment.) He said he'd told the PM he would develop a Vision
and a Mission and Objectives, and that he'd hire "100 percent
qualified" staff who wanted to work and who were efficient
and loyal and honest -- paying them at rates commensurate
with the jobs they were doing.

5. (SBU) In his first two weeks, Rihda reported he had
already drafted implementing regulations for the Foreign
Investment law, including 62 articles on foreign investment
rules and 45 articles on the operations of the commission.
He asserted that these regulations would be reviewed and
approved by the cabinet within two weeks, and that he would
immediately implement them "in any case." Then he said he'd
contacted a few provincial officials to see if they'd drafted
similar regulations for the provincial investment commissions
provided for in the law; learning they had not, he drafted
those regulations as well. (Comment: We have asked for a
copy of the draft regulations. End Comment.)

6. (SBU) Ridha said he intends to address the CoR when his
nomination moves forward; he will use the opportunity to
explain to him his philosophy that politics should not drive
economic development; if anything, the desperate need for
economic development in Iraq must drive the political
decisions.

7. (SBU) Comment: Ridha is a breath of fresh air -- driven
and results oriented. His ambition is admirable, but it may
be blunted by the inefficiency of the Iraqi bureaucracy and
the infighting of Iraqi politics. End Comment.
CROCKER

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