Kur­dis­tan econ­omy booms

In­fla­tion only con­cerns few peo­ple

The Kurdish Globe - - NATIONAL -

New report shows that eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion of KRG has im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly, and the re­gion is at­tract­ing many in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies.

Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Government (KRG) has been praised in a report by the Swiss Refugee coun­cil for their re­mark­able in­vest­ment in the area, and the en­hanced job op­por­tu­ni­ties cre­ated re­gion­ally. The report high­lights that in gen­eral salaries have risen, and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties have in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly in the past years for the pub­lic. The report men­tions the stag­ger­ing dif­fer­ence be­tween South­ern Kur­dis­tan, and Bagh­dad where the salary of ‘a con­struc­tion worker in Bagh­dad is US$ 12 (IQD 15,000) while in Kur­dis­tan they can make up to US$ 20 (IQD 25,400) in a day’.

He dropped his head into his hands and then peered out from be­hind his fin­gers. It wasn’t a half-wit ges­ture, per­haps he was try­ing to mock when asked how much he makes per month. He cleaned his throat as if he braced for a tough com­pe­ti­tion and stated “ev­ery­body in Kur­dis­tan has a magic wand for money!”

I, piv­ot­ing my shoul­ders to the wooden chair in a café where all peo­ple seemed to have fun, shrugged and asked what does “magic wand” mean here. He slurred the last words a lit­tle, like a speaker just get­ting started, “It means that ev­ery­body ev­ery­where in Kur­dis­tan makes money eas­ily more than enough.”

He was sod­den with hope. Ghafour So­ran, a taxi driver from Er­bil, the cap­i­tal of Kur­dis­tan, is not in a prop­er­tied class but a mid­dle class who makes $2000 USD per month. He is mar­ried to a housewife who has no in­come at all. To­gether they raise three chil­dren now. He owns a halffin­ished house and tries his best to com­plete his house by end of next year. He saves $1200 USD per month.

“I live like a king,” he stated with a bark­ing laugh and com­plained a bit about the lack of ba­sic ser­vices in his neigh­bor­hood such as the streets are not paved, water and sewage short­ages as well as ab­sence of pub­lic parks, li­brary, schools and hos­pi­tals.

Through­out my in­ter­views, I heard dif­fer­ent peo­ple in di­verse fields say­ing: the Kur­dish boom is un­prece­dented. In­fla­tion is rife. Av­er­age fam­i­lies make $2500-3500 a month. No cars, no goods, no fruit, no fur­ni­ture is ever stuck in the mar­kets. Peo­ple buy them day in and out. You go to a fur­ni­ture store, all of Kur­dis­tan is there to buy fur­ni­ture. You visit the down­town; Ev­ery­one is there shop­ping and money flies at the hands of ev­ery­one. You go to the car shows, peo­ple are busy with bar­gain­ing and buy­ing 2013 model and brand new cars.

Ako Khalid, an econ­o­mist liv­ing in Kur­dis­tan with dual cit­i­zen­ship: Kur­dish and Ger­man, stated that Kur­dis­tan is really “the land of money” and the boom is at its peak.

Though the price of real es­tate is more ex­pen­sive than in Is­tan­bul, Paris and even Cal­i­for­nia, peo­ple still buy vil­las, lands and rows of houses! One 200 me­ter square house- two floors is worth one mil­lion USD in an un­de­vel­oped district called Kalar in the south east of Kur­dis­tan. One me­ter of land in Er­bil hits five thou­sand USD. Th­ese prices were noth­ing more than a dream some five years ago in Kur­dis­tan. As Khalid said ev­ery­thing is up for grabs in Kur­dis­tan you just need to “put your trust in the right peo­ple” and you might wake up the next day as a mil­lion­aire.

Kur­dis­tan has be­come the land of big com­pa­nies com­pet­ing on the con­sumers who don’t know what is the taste of lo­cal fruit, veg­eta­bles and other di­ets be­cause al­most ev­ery­thing is im­ported from Turkey and Iran and some Euro­pean and gulf coun­tries.

Chi­nese, Euro­pean and Amer­i­can oil firms beat each other very hard to sign oil con­tracts with the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Government (KRG) and rush to get started. The fun­ni­est part, maybe the worst, is that MacDon­ald hasn’t showed up yet in this big mar­ket. As Khalid said when one sees the restau­rants full all the time, even dur­ing brunch times, you’d think that no­body eats at home in Kur­dis­tan. “And that’s a big sign that peo­ple have money in this part of the world.”

But Khalid thought that this boom is not ro­bust in Kur­dis­tan and “it might plunge soon” be­cause there is con­trol over noth­ing. He termed the sit­u­a­tion like “it’s a wild free mar­ket”.

So­ran’s son and daugh­ter, go to school and this needs money, of course. He can man­age all this only by the in­come he gets from his taxi. How­ever, there are peo­ple who are taxi drivers and at the same time are work­ing in pub­lic sec­tors too. Many po­lice­men are taxi drivers af­ter they fin­ish their shift on call. You can find many teach­ers, civil ser­vants, health staff, ed­u­ca­tion per­son­nel and even head­mas­ters who own a taxi and work at their leisure. Ev­ery­one can be a taxi driver be­cause there are no reg­u­la­tions, re­stric­tions and rules what­so­ever to pre­vent some­one from be­ing a taxi driver and hav­ing a taxi. Khalid claimed that this is one of the co­nun­drums of the whole boom be­cause even vil­lagers left their vil­lages and are now taxi drivers in Kur­dis­tan.

A traf­fic po­lice­man, on con­di­tion of anonymity, said that 30 per cent of traf­fic staff have taxis and work as taxi drivers af­ter their for­mal work hours. The least monthly salary of a traf­fic po­lice­man is $1200 USD. He said that he earns twice more than his salary per month.

Walid Khidir is a pri­mary school teacher, at the same time he owns a mini-mar­ket in a busy neigh­bor­hood in Duhok. He earns more than $4,000 USD per month. He also said that he lives like a king. As a mat­ter of fact, through my in­ter­views I heard many peo­ple re­fer­ring to that “Kingish Life” they have in Kur­dis­tan. I ea­gerly asked Khalid to ex­plain what is a “Kingish Life”. The Kingish life means to have best of best: best car, best house, best in­door, best job, at least one trip per year to out­side Kur­dis­tan, an­other house for rent­ing.

The Kings in Kur­dis­tan still com­plain about ba­sic ser­vices like water, bad roads, sewage short­ages and oth­ers. Khidir buys water from the water tanks. “I buy 500 liters of water ev­ery ther day.” So­ran used to buy water but re­cently the lo­cal government tack­led the lack of water and now he has water from the na­tional pipe­lines.

“You can man­age all prob­lems if you have a good in­come,” he proudly stated. Karim Hus­sein, an­other econ­o­mist and teacher of econ­omy in a high school in Sulaimaniya, stated that the rea­son be­hind the fact of hav­ing good in­come is that peo­ple have more than one job. Both econ­o­mists Khalid and Hus­sein agreed that the po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, so­cial and busi­ness tum­ble in Iraq is a big rea­son why Kur­dis­tan’s boom gets big­ger and big­ger ev­ery day. “It’s like blow­ing a bal­loon. One day it will burst and many will badly fall down,” added Hus­sein with a se­ri­ous look.

So­ran con­cluded by say­ing that af­ter his house is built com­pletely, he will start sav­ing some money for the days af­ter the bal­loon blows.

A view of the gi­ant Em­pire World vil­las, apart­ment and busi­ness tower project in Er­bil.

Go­ran Sabah


Er­bil lo­hang­o­ran @ya­hoo.com

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