Rehab Company: Housing, Tourism and Industry Projects in Kurdistan

Rehab Company is a holding company which grew out of a smaller Pola Group, following the transformation within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Rehan Company is involved in housing, tourism and industry-related projects in different cities throughout the Kurdistan Region, including Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Mosul, Ramadi, Tikrit, Basrah and Fallujah.

Baqi M. Salaye, Pola Group & Rehab Company and a Member of Erbil Chamber of Commerce

Kurdistan Housing Bureau estimates that there are about 76,000 families living in rental properties. The Ministry of Housing says 300,000 new houses are needed in order to resolve the housing problem. What’s your opinion on the housing market in Kurdistan? What needs to be done in your opinion?

Basically, the housing problem started during the time of Saddam Hussein. Iraq went through many wars like the internal conflict and the war with Kuwait. As a result of these conflicts, the construction sector was negatively affected. After Saddam’s regime fell, we had the housing investment law where a lot of companies succeeded in building new houses for people. The numbers you mentioned could be less or more but a lot of housing projects were made. However, since big international companies are now based in Kurdistan because it is secure and a lot of Iraqis, who had to come home from Syria, Lebanon and other neighboring countries, moved back to Kurdistan and, beside these, many more people moved from the central and southern parts of Iraq to Kurdistan – these facts contributed to the current situation which is that many people are now renting the places where they live. There is currently a new policy: Kurdistan Regional Government is building low-cost houses for people besides the other incomplete projects. Thus there should not be any housing problem in four years.Rehab group tourism project in Erbil, Kurdistan region of Iraq

Real estate prices are very high when compared to the U.S. for instance; do you feel that the market is experiencing a real estate bubble?

Prices actually depend on supply and demand, and what you have stated above is true not only when we compare the prices in Kurdistan to those in the U.S. but it is the case also when compared to a lot of European countries. I have travelled a lot and I have visited many European countries. The businesses and security in Kurdistan caused the prices to rise and they may remain at this level for a little longer because of the demand. This demand for real estate in Kurdistan is there because many international companies based their offices and businesses in Kurdistan, from where they run their work in other parts of Iraq. Also, the increased demand is related to the arrival of people from the central and southern parts of Iraq, mainly doctors and engineers. These factors led to a rise in prices of real estate, different (building) materials and even hotel prices. Also, this rapid boom in every sector within Kurdistan was not expected by either businessmen or government – another reason for the increase in the real estate prices.

As a member of the Erbil Chamber of Commerce and Industry, what do you think are the challenges faced when it comes to doing business in Kurdistan?

Before we used to live in a socialist community but after the fall of Saddam’s regime we turned into capitalism or the free market and so the present situation in Kurdistan is 100% different than it used to be in the past. In order to cope with the change, we need to change everything – even the laws,- but it is hard to change a 60-year-old law, and since we are connected with Baghdad, we would need to change everything, including the parliament laws. We need to change laws and this creates conflict with the law (and not the government itself). Kurdistan government is actually very supportive and they have new ideas to change the previous situation which prevailed during Saddam’s time. Another problem is to change the minds of the government employees. You can’t change people’s thinking to free market and democracy in a short time.

The first thing is the belief within our people, within Kurds. Kurdish people have suffered a lot because of wars, but if you ask any Kurd – be it a child, a young person, or a politician – you’ll see that they all have hope for a better future of Kurdistan. We were able to turn enemy into a friend and this is a very important point you should pay attention to.

Could you present us Pola Group and Rehab Company, both of which you represent, and mention some of your projects?

I had started just before 2000 with a small office, then it grew into a big company and finally I established Pola Group of companies. 2 years ago, after the region became a business hub where big companies from oil, electricity, industry and agriculture sectors are based, I realized with other businessmen that we needed to establish a major company to cope with the changes in the region. So, we established Rehab Company which consists of over 70 small companies. Unfortunately, the law here doesn’t allow us to establish a holding company otherwise Rehab would be a holding. The Chairman of the Erbil Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the head of the Board of Directors at Rehab Company, while Mr. Sadreldien, Mr. Mustafa and myself are members of the Board of Directors. We work in many areas like the housing investment where we have projects in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Mosul, Ramadi, Tikrit, Basrah and Fallujah. In the agricultural sector we have projects in Erbil, Kirkuk, and Salahaddin. Besides that, we have projects in tourism, electricity and industry. We have big hopes for the company and we think it will soon be renowned regionally and internationally as well.

What makes you believe in the future of Kurdistan as a place and hub for business?

The first thing is the belief within our people, within Kurds. Kurdish people have suffered a lot because of wars, but if you ask any Kurd – be it a child, a young person, or a politician – you’ll see that they all have hope for a better future of Kurdistan. Rehab city project managed by Rehab company from Kurdistan IraqWe were able to turn enemy into a friend and this is a very important point you should pay attention to. We have put the past behind us. This is the time of science, progress, commerce and finance. Finance is what can build the country. We believe in that and this is the direction we should follow. The good intentions of people, officials, traders and industry people is what matters most. Some Kurdish companies are operating in the central and southern Iraq and even in neighboring countries and this is very promising.

Can you give some examples of Kurdistan’s success?

For example the current advancement in housing, tourism or let’s say the malls. I’ve been to Germany in 2004 and it was my first time to see a shopping mall. I entered the area for children and I felt so much pain for our Kurdish children because they didn’t have something like a playground or a designated area for themselves. Now, I feel so happy when I see that the shopping malls in Kurdistan are being visited by people from the central and southern Iraq, and even from neighboring countries. I also used to feel sorry for our children whenever I observed a playground or a park abroad, but now people come to spend their vacations at our parks. This is for me a proof of success of Kurdistan.

Would you have anything else to add?

My last message is to the media. We thank you for visiting Kurdistan and for showing the truth about Kurdistan to people around the world. We are peaceful people and we can build our country. I hope you can help us to spread this message about Kurdistan to the rest of the world.

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