Monday, June 28, 2010

Iraq's Power Problem and China's Solution

The biggest complaint among small business owners in Iraq is the lack of electrical power.  Most small manufacturers have their own generators, but the operating costs are so high that it doesn't make sense to use them.  Power is available, but in unscheduled blocks of 1.5 to 2 hours, delivered every 4 to 6 hours.  Imagine that you are attempting to produce plastic parts, and your machines take 90 minutes to warm up.  You aren't going to make many parts with 1.5 hours of power.

Billions of dollars have been spent repairing the electrical grid in Iraq, and much progress has been made.  Still, it will be several more years before all the citizens of Iraq have reliable electrical power.

During the peak of China's growth, China faced a similar shortage of electrical power, and the solution the Chinese government adopted offers a basis for a solution in Iraq:

1.  When I was working in China, my company opened a new manufacturing facility.  The local government was unable to meet all of our power demands.  We simply received a schedule, telling us when we would have full power and when we wouldn't (we didn't have power for 2 days each week).  We were able to schedule our work around power availability.  Though the situation in Iraq is more extreme, the Iraqi government could provide a power schedule to industrial areas.  While in Iraq, I was able to convince the Ministry of Electricity to provide a scheduled block of power to the factories I was working with.  The benefit was enormous, and new factories opened in the area as a result.

2.  The Chinese provide power preferentially to business.  Iraqi government employees provide power preferentially to themselves.  Obviously, there's some room for improvement here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Power of Business

As we struggle through the worst environmental disaster in the history of the US, it's easy to think about "corporate greed."  Our recent history tells us that a large group of corporate executives has behaved in ways certainly irresponsible, and likely criminal.  The result has been the massive collapse of our economic system, and now even such far-removed industries as shrimp fishing are being threatened by the result of corporate irresponsibility.

Let's not forget, however, the good that businesses can do.  Of course, they provide money and benefits.  Business can also serve to bridge cultural divides that politicians and diplomats can only dream of.  While in Iraq, I brought together Shia manufacturers and Sunni farmers to collaborate on drip irrigations systems.  So much more is possible.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Interesting Times

For the fortunate amongst us, the fourth danger is comfort; the temptation to follow the easy and familiar path of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who have the privilege of an education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. There is a Chinese curse which says "May he live in interesting times." Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind. And everyone here will ultimately be judged -- will ultimately judge himself -- on the effort he has contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which his ideals and goals have shaped that effort.

--Excerpt from Robert F. Kennedy's speech to National Union of South African Students, 1966.

Like it or not, the current state of the planet is not exactly what we would have anticipated.  Has your career taken a sudden turn, or maybe hit a wall?  I've certainly been effected by the current economic and political climate.  Will you give up?  Keep seeking what has brought you comfort in the past?  Will you create a new career?  A new way of looking at the current situation?

Monday, June 7, 2010

ME Magazine Article

An article I wrote about my work in Iraq was just published in Mechanical Engineering Magazine.  Check it out here:

Friday, June 4, 2010

Iraq's Elections

Iraq's national elections happened with a level of violence that was below most expectations.  This, on the heel of successful governate-level elections in early 2009.  Again, I'm not recommending vacations to Baghdad, but things are improving.  You should definitely keep an eye on Iraq's market.  If a new government is successfully formed, it will be an important milestone.  The overall winner, Ayad Allawi, was very popular among Iraqis that I spoke with (though neither Allawi nor Maliki won enough seats in the Council of Representatives to form a majority).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Iraq's Investment Law

Iraq's National Investment Commission (NIC) was established in 2006, and began operating in earnest in 2007.  If you need specifics about Iraq's investment laws and general information about doing business in Iraq, check out the NIC website at: