Regionalization battle in Basra, Iraq oil capital, takes next step
Iraq Oil Report Quick Roundup
Iraq Oil Report
on December 17, 2008
Plummeting oil prices may force Iraq’s government to slow ambitious reconstruction plans, and the country could face a budget shortfall by next summer, U.S. and Iraqi officials said, Jim Michaels reports for USA Today.
“We’re in a situation where Iraq is … potentially going to be in a deficit mode next year,” said Paul Brinkley, who leads Pentagon efforts to aid Iraq’s economy. Iraq, which sits on the world’s third-largest oil reserves, gets at least 90% of its revenue from oil sales. Crude oil prices have dropped about 70% since July when they topped $147 a barrel.
Iraq’s government is considering slowing, but not canceling, major reconstruction projects, Brinkley said. Many projects were planned during Iraq’s massive oil windfall earlier this year. “For next year, with the oil prices going down, we’re going to have a problem,” said Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States.
The Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq have met in preparation for upcoming elections in the sector, according to a release by the ICEM (International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions). The recommendations also include mechanisms to empower union members to shape the federation as an independent organization, to encourage women to join unions of the federation, a call to unionists to be willing and able to support workers’ activities in all sectors, and publishing and distribution of FWCUI’s newspaper in all workplaces.
The meeting took up the challenges to the 1987 Saddam-era Decree 150 – still in force –which prohibits independent trade unions in the public sector, and also explored ways to expand membership. FWCUI is focused on making its unions power tools in the hands of workers.
The Iraqi government is likely to form a specialized police force to protect electricity and oil facilities in efforts to attract foreign investment and boost power supplies, a U.S. official said, Missy Ryan reports for Reuters. A force of about 13,000 guards now under Iraq’s electricity minister will early next year become part of the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for national and local police, said Major General Mike Milano, a senior government adviser.
Milano said he believed the force, which the government wants to retrain and reequip to safeguard electricity facilities, would be combined with a special Oil Police to form a power sector police directorate.
Even before British troops begin their withdrawal from southern Iraq, US forces are already stepping in to finish the job of securing the oil-rich province, Deborah Haynes reports for The Times of London.
At the dusty British military headquarters at Basra’s airport, the Stars and Stripes flies alongside the Union Flag in a symbolic demonstration that after nearly six years in southern Iraq, the British era is coming to an end.
British commanders are focused on meeting certain targets set by Gordon Brown before departure, but the need for extra US troops to train the police and border guards in southern Iraq highlights the shortcomings of the British mission.
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