On Wednesday 108 Iraqi oil experts directed an open letter to the presidency of the parliament demanding a slow down, and not to rush the approval of the oil and gas law.
These experts said in a letter, which carried the signature of 108 former experts and officials in the Oil Ministry, "The draft law of oil and gas before the parliament is in essence not different from the first draft except for the marked improvement in language as it ignored the remarks made by the State Consultative Council, as well as observations that we had laid down in the Oman symposium and the symposia of oil workers unions and civil society institutions, in addition to a number of political blocs."
The letter added, "Since the oil and gas law is extremely important for the present and future of our country, we demand you do your utmost to study the law, scrutinize it and remove any shortcomings from it with help of loyal Iraqi expertise."
The letter recorded a number of remarks on the law in which oil experts expressed their conviction about "The need for a law to regulate and develop extraction". Because of its utmost importance they stressed "the importance of being careful, and not to issue it before further discussion and amendments to protect the general interest of Iraqi people, including the manufacturing sector, (liquidation, distribution and gas industry).” They should not “reduce the priority given to the establishment of the Iraqi National Oil Company, considering the ongoing discussions on amending the constitution, especially the paragraphs on oil and gas; therefore we do not see any urgent legal and technical need for the passage of the law now before resolution of the constitutional amendments.”
The experts said that “contract licenses for exploration, development and production are the backbone of this law, and therefore it is important to emphasize the role of the parliament in ratifying such contracts, as is done across the world, and not limit its powers only to legislating and ratifying international conventions.”
The letter asked the Parliament to discuss the four annexes attached to the law because of their importance, and said, "We stress the need for the Parliament to discuss them as an integral part of the proposed law. We also emphasize the role of the Iraqi National Oil Company which should be responsible for the management of all production and discovered fields in a way that ensures the rights of Iraqi people, and not to waive any rights to oil reserves with contracts with foreign bodies."
The letter also stressed "the importance and necessity of adopting a central and comprehensive plan for the whole of Iraq to determine development and exploration priorities according to economic and cultural bases in the oil industry, as well as recognizing the importance of the participation of provinces and regions in planning, implementation and management within a comprehensive vision to ensure maximum benefit for the whole Iraqi people." And, "Passage of the law in its present state without attention to the consequences of the expected competition among regions and provinces would inevitably result in conflicts that would sustain the current division and chaos, the best example of which is the latest unilateral announcement of Kurdistan government in offering 40 exploratory sites to foreign investment, without even waiting for the federal law and without a comprehensive central plan based for the whole country including Kurdistan."
Prime Minister of the Kurdistan region, Nejervan Barzani, said last month that he sent a letter to the central government in Baghdad containing his government's approval of the draft law of oil and gas.
This law is currently one of the most controversial issues in the Iraqi arena, and there are differences between the political blocs on the law. It concerns the primary wealth of the country; the Sunni Parties had reservations about its present form, and Kurds’ objections concern the relationship between their regional government and the central one in Baghdad.
If the present oil and gas law is passed it will give Iraqi and foreign investors the right to establish oil facilities and refineries and invest them for a period of 50 years, after which they revert to the Iraqi government.