While growth in the Iraqi telecoms sector is currently influenced by the serious civil unrest occurring in the country; it is expected that there will be opportunities for grow in both the mobile communication and mobile broadband markets in the future as well as increased interest in developing a more robust fixed telecoms sector. The potential opportunities for mobile broadband growth were demonstrated by Asiacell and Zain Iraq in 2015 when both reported double digit growth for its mobile data revenue year-on-year – despite the unstable market conditions. The operators have begun preparing for the future with expectations that mobile data traffic will rise. Asiacell, for example, is upgrading its transmission backbone infrastructure in order to improve service quality. The National Communications and Media Commission (NCMC) was established in 2004 to monitor media and communications in Iraq.
Iraq’s GDP grew by more than 10% in 2016, the best performance in the past decade, because of rising oil prices. During 2016, security and financial stability throughout Iraq began to improve as Iraqi Security Forces made gains against the ongoing insurgency and oil prices slowly rose. Diversification efforts – a key component to Iraq’s long-term economic development – require a strengthened investment climate to bolster private-sector engagement. Sustained improvements in the overall standard of living depend heavily on global oil prices, the central government passing major policy reforms, and progress in the conflict with ISIL.
Iraq is making slow progress enacting laws and developing the institutions needed to implement economic policy, and political reforms are still needed to assuage investors’ concerns regarding the uncertain business climate. The Government of Iraq is eager to attract additional foreign direct investment, but it faces a number of obstacles, including a tenuous political system and concerns about security and societal stability. Rampant corruption, outdated infrastructure, insufficient essential services, skilled labor shortages, and antiquated commercial laws stifle investment and continue to constrain growth of private, nonoil sectors. Inflation has remained under control since 2006. However, Iraqi leaders remain hard-pressed to translate macroeconomic gains into an improved standard of living for the Iraqi populace. Unemployment remains a problem throughout the country despite a bloated public sector. Encouraging private enterprise through deregulation would make it easier for Iraqi citizens and foreign investors to start new businesses. Rooting out corruption and implementing reforms – such as restructuring banks and developing the private sector – would be important steps in this direction.