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Iraqi Bank Official Predicts Economic Growth

BAGHDAD -- An Iraqi Central Bank official says per capita income in the country is projected to more than double within the next four years as a result of a sharp increase in Iraq's oil output and higher market prices for oil, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Majid al-Suri, a Central Bank economist, told RFI that per capita income in Iraq is expected to reach some $10,000 by the end of 2015 compared with about $4,500 at present.

Al-Suri said the projections are based on data provided by the Oil Ministry showing that oil contracts signed with major energy firms such as ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP will boost Iraq's oil production to an estimated 12 million barrels per day, including some 3 million barrels that will be used domestically.

But he said he does not expect the considerable increase in oil revenue to guarantee proportionally higher living standards for the populace due to the "rampant corruption" in the country and the "mismanagement of public funds."

Iraq affairs analyst Bassim Jamil Anton told RFI that emphasis should be placed on promoting other economic sectors to help increase Iraq's per capita income rather than putting all of the country's development prospects on the oil sector.

He said Iraq can only hope to match the prosperity of its oil-rich Arab counterparts with growth in such potentially promising sectors as agriculture and tourism and by attracting foreign investment.

Anton said that despite the continuing terror attacks in some parts of Iraq, economic progress is being made and the number of Iraqis living below the poverty line is projected to decline in the coming years to some 5 million people from the current 7 million.

He said that in the meantime, the government's priority should be lowering the country's high unemployment rate of some 30 percent.