Humam Miscone: Reflections on Iraq’s Manufacturing Industry

Scion Industrial Engineering

By Humam Miscone, for The Iraqi Economists Network (IEN). Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

World Bank’s Assessment Is Flawed – Manufacturing Is Viable in Iraq. Additional Reflections on Iraq’s Industry.

These additional reflections are prompted the article of Dr. Amer Hirmis entitled “World Bank’s Assessment Is Flawed: Manufacturing Is Viable in Iraq… Preliminary Brief Comments!” (Hirmis, 2021), which provided critical assessment and comments and challenged some of the analyses and recommendations provided in a recent WBG document entitled “Breaking Out of Fragility A Country Economic Memorandum for Diversification and Growth in Iraq” (WBG Memorandum) (October 2020).

Initially, I would like to recognize and record my general agreement with the arguments and comments of Hirmis (2021).

The WBG Memorandum’s envisaged a vision for Iraq’s economic diversification and growth that, while concentrated on agriculture and agroindustry, completely ignored the manufacturing industry that flourished in Iraq in the 1960s – 1980s.

Instead, the WBG Memorandum vision actually brings Iraq’s economy back 70 years ago, to the early 1950s, when Iraq used to be net exporter of crude oil, wheat and dates and had nascent industrial sector, limited to textile and some construction material industries.

These additional reflections are intended to support the arguments on Hirmis (2021) regarding the manufacturing industry and to provide information and evidence that manufacturing industry, particularly mining, mineral and chemical industries, could be of equal importance to agriculture, agroindustry and even oil industry and could ensure the aspired economic diversification, growth, job creation as well as integrated and balanced territorial development.


Emirates A380 premium economy debut is well timed, say experts

scion Industrial Engineering

Emirates airline’s recent introduction of ‘premium economy’ seats is indicative of shrewd long-term decision making, according to experts.

The Dubai-owned airline announced on January 3 that it would deploy its latest flagship A380 aircraft featuring new premium economy seats and enhancements across all cabins to London Heathrow.

While the seats are not yet bookable, passengers flying on the daily EK003/004 flight can experience the new-look premium economy as a discretionary upgrade until more seats are rolled out commercially and at scale.

According to Tobias Rueckerl, president and CEO, Advanced Aviation Consulting Limited (AACL), Emirates would likely have had the plan in the offing for “three to four years” but now is a “good time” to roll out the Middle East’s first premium economy offering.

“This is might seem a strange time to launch this product but it’s not a bad move,” said Rueckerl.

“The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for [aviation] developments that have been coming to pass for years. More and more global airlines have decided to remove first-class products, upgrade business class products and install premium economy,” he said.

Global trends such as business teleconferencing and scaling back luxury corporate travel have been on the rise since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, the aviation consultant said.

“After the crisis, many western companies changed their travel policies permitting employees to travel in economy only,” ” said Rueckerl. “First class was often filled with mile-collecting upgraders. In this context, it makes sense to re-think the cabins. In the coming years, business travel will become less important and leisure travel will become more popular.”

The AACL expert predicted that business and first-class cabins could be eradicated entirely in the coming years, making space for more low-cost airlines and products offering economy and premium economy.

Fascinating move
Andrew Charlton, managing director at Switzerland-based Aviation Advocacy, said the introduction of premium economy seats by Emirates represents a “fascinating” move.

“There is no doubt that post-pandemic business travel volumes will drop and travel budgets will be tightened, so a value-offer like premium economy may help,” he said. “After the pandemic, many people will want to visit their families or treat their relatives to special flights, so a reasonable upgrade offer might be a good call.”

Charlton predicts that in the coming years business travellers will take occasional longer, consolidated business trips rather than frequent trips.

Stealing a march on competitors
Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at London-based aviation consultants StratAero, said Emirate’s use of a solitary A380 to roll out its premium economy offering highlights that limited scheduling is an issue amid pandemic times.

“Until more airplanes with this cabin are made available for use, it is at Emirates’ discretion regarding who uses premium seats,” he said.

“At the same time, it does allow customers to get a first look at a new product: Emirates is the only GCC airline that has a premium economy suite and so the novelty factor will definitely be an eye-catcher for regular travellers.”

Ahmad added that Emirates has “stolen a march” on its Gulf rivals with its new offering.

“Once we’re through this pandemic, Emirates will have yet another string to its bow for engaging and enticing customers,” he said. “You have to wonder how Gulf competitors will sit on the sidelines before they develop and introduce their own versions.”

Major route
The heavily trafficked route between London airports and Dubai has been a growing battleground for global carriers in recent years.

The London Heathrow-Dubai route alone was the fourth busiest route in the world and attracted 3.4 million passengers in 2017, according to a RoutesOnline study.

The UK capital has historically been a leading aviation hub, providing convenient connections for Emirates passengers to the rest of the UK and wider Europe.

Last week, Sir Tim Clark, president Emirates, said: “The Emirates A380 is already one of the most sought-after travel experiences in the skies, and now we’ve made it even better. While others cut back, Emirates is working hard to restore the products and services that we’ve had to suspend or adjust due to pandemic precautions, and introduce new offerings and enhancements.”

The airline received its newest A380 aircraft from Airbus in December and its remaining order of five A380s will also be delivered with premium economy cabins over 2021 and 2022.

What’s in Emirates premium economy?
The premium economy cabin will have 56 seats in a 2-4-2 cabin layout.
With a pitch of up to 40-inches, Emirates’ premium economy seat is 19.5 inches wide, and reclines eight inches into a comfortable cradle position with ample room to stretch out.
Each seat has a 13.3″ screen, one of the largest in its class as well as easily accessible in-seat charging points, a wide dining table and side cocktail table.
Emirates premium economy is located at the front of the main deck, with two lavatories dedicated to customers.

UAE, Saudi Arabia progress with common digital currency for central banks

scion industrial engineering

The central banks of the UAE (CBUAE) and Saudi Arabia (SAMA) have officially launched a project for a common digital currency.

A final report on the Aber project follows ongoing experiments and research into the initiative which is considered one of the first of its kind internationally at the level of central banks.

It aims to provide proof of concept for the feasibility of issuing a digital currency for central banks called the Wholesale CBDC, with a view of developing cross-border payment systems and reducing transfer times and costs between banks, CBUAE and SAMA said in a joint statement.

It will also experiment with the direct use and application of technologies such as distributed ledgers.

During the trial period, the Wholesale CBDC was only used by the central banks and banks participating in the initiative as a settlement unit for domestic as well as cross-border commercial bank transactions between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the statement added.

Over the course of one year, usage solutions were designed, implemented, and managed… These results showed that the distributed ledger technology would enable central banks to develop payment systems at both local and cross-border levels,” the statement said.

CBUAE and SAMA both expressed satisfaction with the achieved results, which they described as being “beneficial to the central bank community and the financial system in general”.

“The project results are expected to contribute to developing clear perceptions of the potential of this technology and its applications on the financial sector,” they added.

Plans to develop the Aber project were first announced in early 2019 to transact financial settlements between Saudi Arabia and the UAE through Blockchain and distributed ledgers technologies.

It was devised as one of seven initiatives agreed by the Executive Committee of the Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council at its first meeting in Abu Dhabi last year.


Brunei – Market Opportunities

scion Industrial engineering

Overview of best prospect sectors, major infrastructure projects, significant government procurements and business opportunities.
Brunei has an open economy favorable to foreign trade and FDI as it continues to diversify its economy away from its long-term reliance on oil and gas exports. Investment opportunities in Brunei are driven both by government planning and consumer demand.

FDI is important to Brunei as it plays a key role in economic and technological development. Brunei encourages FDI in the domestic economy through various investment incentives offered by the Ministry of Energy, Manpower and Industry and through activities conducted by the Ministry of Finance and Economy through the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB).

Formed in 2001, BEDB promotes Brunei as an investment destination to move its economy away from oil and gas revenue. BEDB is mandated to work with foreign and domestic investors to develop new economic opportunities where Brunei has competitive advantages, focusing on four key areas: attracting investments, strengthening local businesses, increasing Research and Development (R&D) and innovation, and delivering infrastructure projects.

BEDB has identified several industries as potential investment sectors in its efforts to diversify the economy, including life sciences, agri-business, information and communications technology (ICT), and services. Further information on BEDB is available at BEDB’s website.

The most attractive commercial sectors include:

Upstream and Downstream Oil and Gas
Commercial Aviation
Defense Equipment
Medical Equipment
Food and Beverage Franchises
In the agricultural sector, the following investment opportunities may offer lucrative investment opportunities:
Food Imports/Food Production
Fishing Industry/Aquaculture
Brunei’s ICT sector seeks to benefit from international expertise as Brunei continues to upgrade its national telecommunications infrastructure, and the financial sector seeks to modernize its banking industry with digital platforms.

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting


Mint Turbines Awarded Grant for Equipment and Workforce

Oklahoma’s Department of Commerce (ODOC) reached out to Mint Turbines, a 30 year old company who specializes in engine MRO services and engine repair/maintenance, to inform them that due to their industry sector, they can qualify for a grant from the Manufacturing Reboot Program that Governor Kevin Stitt rolled out. Under the Reboot Program, companies apply for a grant that is intended to assist in either retooling to develop products to help combat COVID-19 or to allow the company to expand current capabilities.

Located halfway between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Mint Turbines is facilitated in Stroud where they operate as an turbine engine maintenance, repair and overhaul facility. “The state is very proactive in helping business grow here in Oklahoma,” said Chris Van Denhende, CFO of Mint Turbines. Van Denhende always stated that within 10 short days of applying for the grant, they were notified of acceptance.

As an awardee of the grant money, the company received $150,000. Additionally, a coordinate-measuring machine, typically known as CMM equipment, was sought after. CMM machine, typically weighing in at an astonishing 20,000 pounds, uses smart technologies to decrease measurement cycle time. A single CMM cost around $250,000 and with $100,000 of the Reboot funds going to this important purchase – $50,000 is left to be assigned to employee growth. With 45 current employees, Mint Turbine expects to see their employment double within the next three years. With labor intensive hands-on roles needing to be fulfilled, a pipeline of highly skilled individuals are sought after. The CMM machinery will also allow Mint Turbine to bid for work.

Furthermore, the funds allow Mint Turbines to expand on their product offerings while simultaneously boosting the quality of life in their city by filling numerous positions at the manufacturing facility.


Bahrain’s Investcorp inks $286m deals for US residential property

Bahrain’s Investcorp has invested in four US residential apartment complexes and a student housing facility for a total purchase price of $286 million, the company announced on Monday.

The communities include a 660-unit property in Atlanta, a 408-unit property in Chicago, and two properties with a total of 505 units in Dallas.

The student housing property, located in Orlando, has over 800 bedrooms.

Additionally, Investcorp invested in four industrial portfolios, comprising 2.7 million square feet and over 40 buildings for a total purchase price of approximately $206 million.

The four portfolios comprise nine buildings totalling 552,370 sq. ft. in Phoenix, Arizona, 11 buildings totalling 833,193 sq.ft. in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 7 buildings totalling 440,013 sq.ft. in Austin, Texas and 15 buildings totalling 876,955 sq.ft. in Chicago.

“These investments are a continuation of our real estate investment strategy and our commitment to growing our U.S. real estate portfolio,” said Investcorp Co-CEO Mohammed Al Shroogi. “Investcorp has been a leader in this market since we entered over 20 years ago, and it remains a key part of our long-term strategy.”


Production surges in Iran’s car industry

Iran's car industry

Iran’s car industry is the second biggest sector in country after the energy sector accounting for more than 10 percent of its GDP.
Over 700,000 people are working in this industry which is equal to four percent of workforce of Iran, according to the 2015 data.

With a contribution of about $9.1 billion, the country’s carmakers accounted for 2.2 percent of Iran’s economic growth over the last fiscal year (ended March 20, 2016). The automotive industry is projected to form at least four percent of Iran’s economic growth by 2025.

The WB estimates show that Iran’s GDP in 2015 stood at $393.7 billion. This is while Iran’s car industry in 2015 witnessed a downward trend as the industry’s share in the country’s GDP was 0.5 percent lower than in preceding year.

However, the latest statistics on the output of the country’s automotive industry suggest a huge surge. The industry made more than 946,000 vehicles over the first nine months of the current fiscal year — indicating a 38.7-percent growth year-on-year.

A surge was observed in interest among multinational companies in investing in Iran following the nuclear deal signed in January 2015, while one sector attracting attention is Iran’s automotive industry.

Iranian car manufacturers reestablished cooperation with European companies, including Peugeot, Citroen and Renault. This resulted in a strong growth of nearly 151 percent for automotive sector, which ended 2016 as the top performing sector on the Tehran Stock Exchange.

At least two European carmakers had earlier announced that they experienced a considerable surge in their sales in Iran over 2016.

Traditional export markets for Iranian automobiles include Algeria, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Ghana, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Senegal, Syria, Sudan and Venezuela.

Recently, the Islamic Republic presented certificates to foreign car manufacturers willing to open sales offices in the country.

Some 40 foreign carmakers have already obtained the certificates, while the number can be increased in future. Companies may get licenses facing no limit in terms of the number of cars they would like to import. However, the companies are required to have a 10-year customer services experience in Iran, to be able to sell the production in the market.

The auto giant PSA Peugeot Citroen became the first foreign company since the implementation of the JCPOA to receive a license from the Iranian government to invest in Iran Khodro Co. (IKCO) — the country’s biggest car manufacturer.

The country imported some 49,331 motor cars in March-December 2016, while some 89 percent of the of the figure fell to a share of 5 countries, including the UAE, South Korea, Germany, Spain, Turkey. Imported cars had only a five-percent share in Iran’s total car market in the period.