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Statement of the Iraq Economic Contact Group of the G7, European Union and World Bank – July 2023

On July 27th, the Iraq Economic Contact Group (IECG) held the first meeting under the co-chairmanship of Italy and the United States, who will lead the work of the Group for the second half of 2023. As friends and partners of Iraq, the IECG aims to continue supporting Iraq in the implementation of a comprehensive and ambitious reform agenda, which can pave the way to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic development.

The IECG Ambassadors exchanged perspectives on the Budget Law, highlighting that it is the largest ever passed by the Iraqi Parliament, as well as the first ever to include a three-year federal budget plan, which will provide a framework for planning capital investment projects. Besides providing resources to deliver services to the Iraqi population, including in the health and education sectors, the 2023-2025 budget entails interesting innovations compared to the past, including provisions to initiate export credit programmes and investments in infrastructure projects. These might entail initiatives that have the potential to reinforce Iraq’s connections to the region and the world, such as the Development Road Project. The IECG acknowledges the budget’s importance to implementation of Prime Minister Mohammed Shiaa al-Sudani’s government plan, while underscoring the need to keep track of the effects of possible fluctuations in oil prices and to ensure longer-term sustainability. There is also a need to address the challenges related to climate change in the run-up to the COP28 conference, especially in terms of adaptation.

For the next semester, the IECG aims to focus on three priority areas:

1. Banking Sector Reform
Encouraging the reform and modernization of Iraq’s banking sector is essential to supporting economic growth. The IECG will continue sustaining Iraq’s efforts and working closely with the Central Bank of Iraq in this direction, which include reforming State-owned banks , increasing compliance with international standards, strengthening links with international banks, countering money laundering, and promoting the role of private banks. In parallel, efforts to tackle corruption and to digitalize the economy need to continue in order to achieve greater transparency and accountability, especially in view of Iraq’s ongoing evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

2. Business Environment and Private Sector Growth
Iraq’s prosperity and resilience also depends on the ability of a vibrant private sector capable of providing job opportunities outside of the public sector, with specific attention to women, youth and vulnerable groups, and alternatives for income creation that can reduce the country’s dependency on oil revenues. By ensuring equitable access to employment and laying the foundation for green growth, Iraq can build an economy that is more inclusive, resilient, and sustainable. To do so, the Government of Iraq needs to tackle structural challenges and sustain the implementation of key reforms that could improve the level of investment. In this respect, the IECG will support structural reforms that aim to improve the business environment and to promote access to credit, especially for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as well as to reinforce the attractiveness of Iraq to international investors and foreign companies seeking commercial opportunities in the country, while appraising the Government for the efforts to progress on reforming the legal framework. The IECG supports capacity-building initiatives entailing skill development, access to technology, and managerial training programs, while encouraging collaboration with local businesses and industry associations in shaping policies and reforms. In addition, the IECG will promote responsible and sustainable business practices that take in consideration the social and environmental impact of private sector activities.

3. Engagement with International Organizations and Financial Institutions
The IECG encourages strengthening ties with international organizations and financial institutions that can help Iraq advance its reform agenda. Rapidly completing accession to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) would send a clear signal about Iraq’s readiness to engage in the international economic arena, while providing policy advice and technical expertise, especially in private sector development and banking reform, and additional resources to sustain its reform efforts. The IECG is ready to provide assistance to complete the procedure, also with a view to facilitating engagement with the European Investment Bank (EIB). The IECG encourages maintaining dialogue with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a potential unfunded program and fully leveraging the wide array of financial and technical instruments of the World Bank that are at direct disposal of the Government. The IECG commends Iraq’s efforts to accede to the World Trade Organization (WTO), that could provide additional benefits, especially in terms of improving Iraq’s legislation and technical assistance.

More broadly, the IECG acknowledges overall progress in terms of stability achieved in the past months, which is a fundamental condition to relaunch Iraq’s economy and to work for the country’s long-run sustainable development. We welcome the engagement of the Government of Iraq in cultivating constructive relations with the international community, and we reaffirm our commitment to deepen our economic partnership while helping to advance on the reform agenda.