September 21, 2003
Iraq to Allow Foreign Owners Outside Oil
Filed at 3:36 a.m. ET
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iraq was set to unveil on Sunday sweeping economic reforms that include giving foreign investors full access to all sectors of the economy except oil after three decades of almost total state control.
A statement by U.S.-backed Finance Minister Kamel al-Keylani scheduled for release in Dubai later on Sunday said the reforms ``will be implemented in the near future.''
``The reforms will significantly advance efforts to build a free and open market economy in Iraq, promote Iraq's future economic growth (and) accelerate Iraq's re-entry into the international economy,'' Keylani's statement said.
A senior U.S. official involved in oil-rich Iraq's reconstruction said the new proposals were agreed upon on Saturday and were now effectively the law of the land.
The list of steps to liberalize foreign investment, the banking sector and the tax and tariff code reads like a recipe devised by Washington for a free-market Iraq.
The changes would end about 30 years of state economic domination under Saddam Hussein and the socialist Baath Party.
The reforms include allowing foreign banks to buy local financial institutions, a free transfer of foreign exchange earnings and full independence for the central bank.
Joe Saba, the World Bank country director for Iraq, told Reuters the proposals were ``significant steps'' in opening up Iraq to much-needed investment and financial intermediation.
``The overall arrangements for the financial sector are particularly welcome as...a fundamental building block for building a sound market economy,'' Saba said.