Bye bye, Iraq, Businessmen take flight in wake of bomb.
Some foreign businessmen are pulling out of Iraq while others are reappraising their strategies following the devastating suicide bomb attack two days ago on the UN headquarters in Baghdad.
Fearing that foreigners may be targeted in a new campaign of terror attacks by anti-coalition insurgents, some potential investors and traders have left or announced a rethink of their plans.
Now, Iraqi businessmen worry that such a response could hamper not only their own companies but also Iraq's redevelopment hopes.
'I have definitely lost money over this already,' said Mr Refaat Alamin, a 47-year-old executive with Al-Kindi General Trading, a consumer goods import and export company.
Sitting in central Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, one of the international business community's favourite haunts, he tut-tuts at the lack of foreign businessmen who, until Tuesday, had filled its smoky lobby and coffee shop, networking and cutting deals.
'Some of my clients have left since the attack - and that just adds to the problems I've had since the war, when even more fled,' he said.
There are no figures on the amount of foreign investment that has gone into the country since the end of the war to topple Saddam Hussein.
But a walk down the main Karrada Street shopping strip is testament to the degree of international entrepreneurship that is seeping into the war-ravaged country.
Shops that until a few months ago were selling locally made shoes or appliances are now piled high with goods made in China bearing Japanese brand names such as Sanyo and Panasonic.
Some stores sell leather coats made in Turkey while others do a slow but solid trade in fans and lighting equipment made in Syria.
Much of it has been smuggled in, but foreign business leaders in Baghdad say much more is brought in legally.
'Foreign companies realise the massive business opportunities in Iraq and are flooding in,' said Mr Charles Forrest, an attorney for Iraqi International Law Group, a company that facilitates foreign business in the fledgling economy.
He said Tuesday's blast had put fear in many of his clients, but he believed they would remain in Iraq.
'They realise that there are enormous opportunities here and the amount of money that's being spent on the oil industry is making it more attractive by the day,' he said.
[Source: The Straits Times (Singapore), Agence France-Presse, 23Aug03]
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