Thursday, August 30, 2012

Minister of Natural Resources, Thank you for “saving national resources”

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)'s Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami made a rare interview with an Erbil-based newspaper, Rudaw, that was published on Aug. 29 in which he accused Nawshirwan Mustafa, the current leader of the main opposition party, Gorran, of signing oil contracts in 2006 – while he was a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party  – that would give large shares of revenues to an exploration company in Sulaimaniyah that would monopolize the exploration in the province. He said as of his appointment as Minister of Natural Resources he had revoked that contract and had signed five deals instead of one for exploration of the same area of land in Sulaimaniyah which together would bring Kurdistan 100 times more revenue and would encourage competition among the companies. He complained that instead of being thanked for saving so much money, he was attacked by Mr Mustafa's Gorran for corruption.

I am not surprised that Mr Hawrami wants to be thanked for what he is being paid for to do. It is just a syndrome in this country that affects officials' memories once they are in power they forget that they are there to serve people not to do them favors for which people normally show gratitude. However, on behalf of all my fellow citizens, I would like to thank Mr Hawrami for doing us the favor of saving so much money, but I would also like to make the following points regarding his remarks:
·         Gorran Party has rejects such claims that Mustafa has sisgned any contracts. They say Miustafa never had a government position in order to sign a contract, and the Minister say at very beginning of the interview that the contract was signed "at the request of Mustafa" and then later on he says it "was signed by Mustafa", I wonder which is it?
·         While Hawrami talks about a mysterious 5 percent share going to two people (whom I am sure are not from Mr Mustafa's party or Mr Hawrami would not have hesitated to revel their identities) secretly, the oil revenue despite all the improvement and money savings the Minister talks about is not transparent and nobody actually knows where does the money go to.
·         The claim that the previous contract would earn Kurdistan only $40 million instead of $5 billion under the current contracts sounds to me like pure propaganda because the two figures are just no close in any way so that someone can steal some extra money from the oil revenues and fool everyone. Besides, no one would be so fool as to sign a contract that is worth $500 million for only a $5 million bonus for the region knowing for sure that all secrets sooner or later would be disclosed.
·         The Minister is so desperately in need of some pats on the shoulder as he repeats the question: "Why he did not thanks us.." for this and that. If the minister really thinks that Mustafa was involved in money laundering and corruption, then it is so naïve to expect from him to offer any gratitude for someone who discloses his scandals. Wouldn't it?
·         Mr Hawrami also refers to other contracts signed between Mustafa and other companies in which 20 percent would go to unknown people. So much for such accusations! If there is any evidence please provide it so we can believe it and so corrupt officials can be tried!
·         Mr Hawrami claims that KRG's oil contracts were approved by the parliament and 111 MPs  "voted in favor of it" and among them "SOME"  Gorran MPs. Well, I don't know what to say about this statement! If there were SOME Gorran MPs who voted in favor NOT all (there are 25 Gorran MPs in parliament apart from other opposition MPs), then he is contradicting his previous statement where he said 111 MPs voted in favor of the contracts because the Kurdish parliament is formed of 111 seats not more.
·         Now look at this quote: "During my visit with Mr. Mustafa… I also asked him if he was suspicious about the transparency of oil revenues in Kurdistan and his answer was that I appeared honest and clean in performing my duty. I asked him why he didn't say the same thing on TV so people know the truth, but he said "why would I praise a government that I wish to overthrow?" how credible! Are we really supposed to buy that? It is nice to praise oneself by putting words into others' mouths, huh?
·         And this part is puzzling to me when the minister says $4.22 billion out of $5 billion in oil revenues will be used by the companies on projects? What projects? And are they public service projects? It seems that the KRG has only received about $730 million out of the $5 billion revenue an of which only $350 million as the minister says is obvious that was spent on water projects while the rest he has no idea about. However, it is not the rest of the $730 million that is a riddle to me, but the rest of the $5 billion. What exactly does that mean that about $4.22 billion of the revenues will be used by the companies on projects? I am assuming they mean more oil exploration projects and in which case all the $5 billion revenue Mr Hawrami claimed that would go to the KRG is not actually correct and that the companies still keep about 80 percent of the revenues.

Note: I read this interview with Ashti Hawrami on EKURD.NET which had reposted it from Rudaw Newspaper's website. I tried to find the original page on Rudaw but it seems that it has been removed or there was something wrong with the website that did not show the page. When you search the headline you can still find the link to the page on Rudaw newspaper's website, but when you click on it you will get an error message saying the page is not found. The article however was re-posted by a many websites before the original article disappeared on Rudaw's website.

For the full interview on EKURD.NET click the link below: