FDI (Foreign Direct Investment Magazine) named the governor of al-Anbar province its global personality of the year.
In order to be successful at attracting investment, political leaders need many things: intellect, instinct, sensible advisers, an appreciation for the way business works, or sometimes just dumb luck. In most places in the world, they do not require bravery or courage, at least not in the truest sense of the words. Most places are not Iraq.
Being the governor of Al Anbar, Iraq’s largest province, is a not a job for someone who wants an easy life, or is prepared to shrink from a challenge. In 2005, the governor at the time was kidnapped by terrorists and killed during a gunfight while in captivity. The one before that resigned after his sons were kidnapped.
Anbar is safer these days, although the current governor, Qasim Abid Muhammad Hammadi Al Fahadawi, still faces serious threats. His biggest concern, however, is creating jobs for the nearly 20,000 unemployed people in the province – therefore denying terrorists a source of recruits. Economic development, fuelled by foreign investment, is a weapon in the war against terrorist groups, he says.
FDI in a place like Anbar is a lifeline and attracting it a life-or-death situation. And that is why Governor Qasim is a man in a hurry. Having assumed office in April, he is working with developers on ambitious plans for new commercial, housing, industrial and tourism zones, pushing plans for improving transport links, and courting investors in Iraq and abroad to finance the schemes. And he is putting his money where his mouth is: he has purchased a property in one of his pet projects, the planned New Ramadi City housing development.
Corruption remains endemic in Iraq and is an impediment to investment. To increase transparency and bring a more businesslike focus to government operations, the governor is implementing a streamlined system for administrative procedures, based on international best practice, which he hopes will be a model for the rest of Iraq. “If everything goes according to my plan, within two years we will have put everything in place in the right way. So the second two years in office should be easy for me,” he says with a laugh. “Then I can work eight hours a day instead of 18.”