Prominent Iraqis criticise oil law

Experts and economists issue statement demanding full review of the legislation.

    Al-Chalabi says Iraqi oil experts must be consulted
    A statement, signed by 419 Iraqi oil experts, economists and intellectuals, expresses grave concern that the newly proposed law would deprive Iraq from its most vital natural resource, oil, and give foreign oil companies ultimate domination over Iraq's oil wealth.


    Iraq's intellectuals demand a fundamental modification to the proposed law, and a referendum, the statement said.


    The law is expected to be discussed in the Iraqi parliament next month, after the parliamentary summer holiday is over.


    Issam al-Chalabi, Iraq's former oil minister and a signatory to the statement, told Al Jazeera: "We strongly recommend a real modification to the proposed law, and that Iraq's veteran experts be consulted and given a role in rewriting the law.


    "We urge that a modified oil law be passed only by a referendum, simply because oil is the wealth of all Iraqis and it affects every Iraqi's livelihood and future."


    Sovereignty issue

    Some Iraqi politicians view oil as a sovereignty issue; therefore anything related to it must be done in co-ordination between the government and people.


    Nouri al-Marsoumi, a political activist, former deputy minister of culture and a signatory to the statement, told Al Jazeera: "The oil law, from a political and economic point of view, is not less important than the constitution itself. National control over oil is a major sign of sovereignty.


    The question is: Do we really need that oil law? Is it really that urgent, and cannot wait until Iraq is better off?
    "It is a national issue, and everyone must enjoy the right of understanding it and saying what he thinks about it. Therefore, the people of Iraq must have the final say about any proposed oil law, not the parliament, let alone the current parliament, whose legitimacy is under question because it was elected under the occupation."


    Remarkable experience

    s oil experts insist that their country enjoys a remarkable experience in the oil industry, and it does not need foreign help to develop the country's oil infrastructure.


    Al Jazeera spoke to Kamal al-Kaisi, a former oil ministry official and Iraq's representative to Opec 1979-1985. He said: "The question is: Do we really need that oil law? Is it really that urgent, and cannot wait until Iraq is better off?


    "Iraq has achieved the nationalisation of oil in 1973, we ran our oil industry effectively for decades, before and after the nationalisation, and our experience has become a model for the region's countries.


    Production-sharing agreements, which would allow foreign oil companies to invest in oil, and pay a profit margin to the government have been widely criticised by Iraqi oil experts.


    Al-Kaisi said: "If we want to increase oil production, then we do not need to risk our necks by surrendering our oil to foreign companies, it could be done internally. Iraq is full of high-quality oil engineers. All we need is to borrow some money, may be, but we definitely do not need the production share agreements (PSA).


    "The nation is in ruins, people are afraid to stay in their own homeland, foreign troops are occupying the country, the government alliance is falling apart - among many other problems. Is the oil law a priority in such circumstances?


    The proposed oil law licenses PSA for the first time in decades. The law states that foreign oil companies would pay 12% profit margin to the Iraqi government. Oil experts say this is an unjustifiably small figure in the light of the current high oil prices. 

    SOURCE: AlJazeera


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