The Iraqi Ministry of Trade offered six shopping centers in Baghdad as investment projects for foreign companies last week.
Offering the centers for investment is the second phase of a three-phase plan the ministry started last January. The plan will offer a total of 20 central shopping complexes in Baghdad and the provinces for investment.
Saad Faris al-Hamdani, director-general of the Ministry of Trade's state company for shopping centers, said the first phase included the award of the Mansour shopping center in Baghdad to the Emirati company Taqat.
The company is now working on repairing and renovating the shopping center, which is expected to be complete by mid-2012.
"The second phase includes offering for investment the Ahd, Shaab, Salihiya, Mustansirya, Thulatha and Amil shopping centers. A number of international companies have submitted offers to turn these compounds into huge commercial complexes," al-Hamdani told Mawtani.
Turkish, French, American, Chinese, Lebanese, Egyptian and Emirati companies have submitted offers to invest in the shopping centers. The ministry is now studying the financial and technical aspects of the offers to choose the most suitable one.
"When deciding on which company, we shall take into consideration the company's solid standing, its expertise and experience in carrying out similar projects with high quality specifications, and the capacity of each project to absorb the largest number of employees from our company who are working at these centers, in addition to the percentage of annual profit that will be returned to our company from the investment," said al-Hamdani.
He also said that he expects the ministry to announce which companies won the investment opportunities and sign the contracts before the end of the year.
"The investment will make our shopping centers capable of competing with the private sector by offering various imported goods and items to the local consumers at reasonable prices and with good quality," al-Hamdani said.
Abdul Rahman al-Mashhadani, an economics professor at al-Mustansiriya University, said the effort to attract international companies and offer them the chance to invest in shopping centers "represents an excellent step on the part of the Ministry of Trade".
"The investments will help turn the centers into magnificent commercial and tourist centers that will bring considerable economic benefit to the state," he told Mawtani.
Al-Mashhadani said the investing company is required to employ no less than 60% of the former employees at the shopping centers. Management of the shopping centers and the process of importing merchandise will be left up to the investors, who will be exempt from paying taxes and customs duties for 15 years.
Ibrahim al-Rikaby, a member of the Iraqi parliament's economic and reconstruction committee, praised the plan to offer shopping centers for investment.
"I imagine that offering these shopping venues for investment is the best solution to have them rejuvenated to what they used to be in playing a major role and meeting all the needs of Iraqi consumers for high quality goods and items imported from well known sources," he told Mawtani.
Al-Rikaby called for renovating the centers according to the latest modern specifications and providing all commercial and recreational services such as shops, specialized shopping complexes, sports halls, hotels, restaurants and other service facilities.