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Middle East: Welcome to Erbil, Iraq

As Iraqi oil production is ramped up, a big bank run and Al Qaeda attacks are undermining basic faith in the financial system. Nevertheless, especially in safer areas such as Iraqi Kurdistan, there are signs of how the country’s potential could be exploited.

ERBIL’S WEALTHIER SUBURBS are beginning to look like a city in the Arab Gulf – Dubai, or Saudi Arabia, perhaps. Half-finished hotels and office blocks, and tacky housing developments, are interspersed with busy new highways radiating away from the ancient citadel at the core of the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

With peace, other parts of Iraq might come to look like Saudi Arabia too. If the country meets its oil industry targets, it could even become the world’s biggest producer by the end of the decade.

The Kurdish government hopes that the autonomous region alone could, if all goes well, rank alongside such producers as Kuwait and the UAE by the middle of the decade. Erbil will soon become the world’s latest oil boom town – as long as the Kurds can resolve a bitter dispute with Baghdad over the validity of oil contracts signed independently of central government with foreign firms.

Ezat Issa, head of finance at the Kurdish Council of Ministers

"Because security is so much better in our region, more and more companies are using Kurdistan as a base, as a gateway for Iraq"

Ezat Issa, Kurdish Council of Ministers

An economic boom is already in full swing in Erbil.

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