In packed programme of seminars two themes dominated discussions at IBBC’s annual “retreat” conference at Wilton Park in West Sussex: corruption and security issues in Iraq.
One senior Iraqi official admitted: ” bribery is part of the culture now, everyone is looking at getting their share.”
And regarding security there was general consensus it was much improved, but Western executives were still at risk from kidnapping by organised crime syndicates if they did not take suitable precautions.
UK Paymaster General and Cabinet Office Francis Maude, MP, was a special guest at the opening dinner and he pledged the British Government’s full support to IBBC member companies investing in Iraq. He said ties between the two countries were historically strong and this should be capitalised on.
The first debate on day one of two days of discussions focussed on the “ease of doing business” in Iraq when delegates said corruption was a huge drawback for companies working there.
One private sector delegate told the meeting corruption in Iraq: ” was found at the highest levels,” with some senior ministerial figures demanding huge “commissions.” Two senior Iraqi officials said their Government was aware of the massive problems corruption caused and it was tackling illegal commissions.
Delegates debated solutions to corruption including the establishment of a fully transparent and computerised banking system.
One official explained Iraqis were paying and receiving bribes as a way making money to secure basic health care for their families. He believed as health and social services improved this would lift society generally and reduce corruption.
In respect of security delegates heard Western executives were mainly at risk from opportunistic kidnappings for financial gain in some of the major cities.
In the debate which followed a senior security executive also said he believed strongly in the trend towards more Iraqi led and staffed firms.
He said: “There needs to be transition from Western to Iraqi security firms, that is the right move and will and will enable the Iraqis to take more control of their country. They still need further training and we are able to offer that.”