Friday, 1 June 2012

Iraq: Kurdish opposition gets tough on oil deals

Kurdish opposition parties are already flexing their muscles against their new prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani. This month, 38 opposition MPs in the Kurdish parliament demanded that natural resources minister Ashti Hourami come before the chamber to be questioned about oil policy.

The opposition has a list of complaints about how the minister is running energy policy, not least of which is the lack of transparency that surrounds the sector. In a memo, the group of MPs declared that, with oil production expanding in the region and an increasing number of foreign companies operating there, it was time that parliament was informed of exactly what was going on. The memo asserted, “Parliament needs to know what the KRG's ambiguous plans on oil are.”

The MPs didn't pull any punches in the memo. They not only complained that the ministry was not implementing many articles contained in the region's oil and gas law of 2007, they flagged up the fact that the ministry is carrying out its business without the knowledge or supervision of parliament. They also demanded to be informed of exactly what quantities of oil had been produced, the price it has been sold at, how it has been transported and what kind of oil contracts the ministry has signed with foreign companies. The MPs also insisted that oil revenues should be directed to local banks in the Kurdish region, particularly to those areas where fields are located.

Whether Barzani and Hourami will respond to these demands has yet to be seen. However, the move demonstrates the increasing insistence by the opposition that the Kurdish government start to become more transparent in the way it operates, including in its dealings with foreign energy firms.

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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