Iraq may be on the cusp of a revenue windfall after losing billions of dollars annually due to its insufficient oil production facilities, according to investors.
International energy executives have been clinching new contracts to develop the hydrocarbon-rich country's energy sector that, despite being OPEC's second-largest producer, has failed to solve domestic poverty and infrastructure woes.
But foreign investors admit that lofty development goals continue to be hindered by sluggish administration, corruption and a wall of bureaucracy.
"The administrative decision-making process takes so long, it takes a lot of resources to be there and support during those fallow periods," said Robert Helme, head of business development at technical services provider Wood, which has multi-million dollar contracts with the Iraqi government.
Other executives noted it takes up to eight weeks for employees to get visas to enter the country.
Jean-Claude Nasr, senior vice president at Siemens Power & Gas, stressed the need for "faster decision making process and transparency — from the electricity sector this has to be made by yesterday, at least on the short-term scale."
Development goals include capturing gas flares, or the gas burned off during oil production, to convert into usable energy and which Siemens estimates could save Iraq $5.2 billion over the next four years. Previous inability to capture this excess natural gas due to the war-weary country's underdeveloped infrastructure has amounted to billions of dollars in lost revenue per year.
Working with Iraq's electricity ministry, multinational energy and industrial companies have major plans to turn the sector around — something that will be critical for post-war reconstruction, the funding of which the World Bank estimates will require up to $150 billion.