Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Another view --- from Newsweek --- excerpts.

Ben's advance comment:

This is rather incredible, albeit not quite investment grade.

Sorry I can't it out of boldface,



Iraq's Economy is Booming
In what might be called the mother of all surprises, Iraq's economy is growing strong, even booming in places.
By Silvia Spring
Newsweek International

Dec. 25, 2006 - Jan. 1, 2007 issue - It may sound unreal, given the daily images of carnage and chaos. But for a certain plucky breed of businessmen, there's good money to be made in Iraq. Consider Iraqna, the leading mobile-phone company...

Civil war or not, Iraq has an economy, and—mother of all surprises—it's doing remarkably well. Real estate is booming. Construction, retail and wholesale trade sectors are healthy, too, according to a report by Global Insight in London. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports 34,000 registered companies in Iraq, up from 8,000 three years ago. Sales of secondhand cars, televisions and mobile phones have all risen sharply. Estimates vary, but one from Global Insight puts GDP growth at 17 percent last year and projects 13 percent for 2006...

... there's a vibrancy at the grass roots that is invisible in most international coverage of Iraq. Partly it's the trickle-down effect. However it's spent, whether on security or something else, money circulates. Nor are ordinary Iraqis themselves short on cash. After so many years of living under sanctions, with little to consume, many built up considerable nest eggs—which they are now spending. That's boosted economic activity, particularly in retail. ...

Consider some less formal indicators. Perhaps the most pervasive is the horrendous Iraqi traffic jams. Roadside bombs account for fewer backups than the sheer number of secondhand cars that have crowded onto the nation's roads—five times as many in Baghdad as before the war. Cheap Chinese goods overflow from shop shelves, and store owners report quick turnover. Real-estate prices have risen several hundred percent, suggesting that Iraqis are more optimistic about the future than most Americans are...

Meanwhile, Iraq's official economic institutions are making progress, improbable as that might sound in the context of savage sectarian violence and a seemingly complete breakdown of leadership and law...

It goes without saying: real progress won't be seen until the security situation clears up. Iraq still lacks a functioning banking system. Though there's an increasing awareness of Iraq as a potential emerging market, foreign investors won't make serious commitments until they are assured a measure of stability. Local moneymen are scarcely more bullish on the long term. In Iraq's nascent bond market, buyers have so far been willing to invest in local-currency Treasury bills with terms up to six months, max.

Iraqna isn't the only success story. There is also Nipal, a money-transfer service that is the backbone of Iraq's cash economy, as well as a slew of successful construction firms in Kurdistan. Such companies are not waiting for Iraq's political crisis to resolve itself. Yet imagine how they would prosper if it did, and how quickly they would be joined by others. As things stand, Iraqna faces extraordinary difficulties. It builds towers but lives in constant fear that they will be blown up....

But again, that's the remarkable thing. In a business climate that is inhospitable, to say the least, companies like Iraqna are thriving. The withdrawal of a certain great power could drastically reduce the foreign money flow, and knock the crippled economy flat.

1 Comments:

Blogger Roy Lofquist said...

Dear Ben,

Not at all surprising. This is both a vindication of GWB's vision of Democracy (in practice, the market) but also the folklore of sharp Arab traders. In a better world the people of the font of civlization, both Arab and Jew, will show us the way to plentitude which gives us the leisure for grace.

Regards,
Roy

December 22, 2006  

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