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Committees’ recent meetings – 12 July 2020

Committees’ recent meetings – 12 July 2020

A summary of Kurdistan Parliament committees' recent meetings and activities:

Agriculture and Irrigation Committee

7 July – The committee, led by the chair Abdulsatar Majid Qadir (KIG), discussed the failure to market and sell Kurdistan Region’s agricultural products, which has led to farmers suffering financial losses and despairing for their hard work. Recently farmers began to throw away their tomato production, angered that they are unable to sell them for a profit, even though the KRG bans foreign tomato imports for certain periods to protect local producers. A Kurdistani business leader stepped in and bought Kurdistan farmers’ tomato production, as an emergency measure.

The MPs decided to call the ministers of agriculture and trade to ask them what arrangements they are making to prevent farmers from suffering financial losses again.

The committee also appealed to the public to buy Kurdistan’s farmers’ products, and called for food processing factories to be put to work or established.

9 July – The committee met with Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Begard Talabani and with Trade and Industry Minister Kamal Muslim Saeed, to look into the failure to market Kurdistan Region’s agricultural products.

Parliament committee chair Abdulsatar Majid Qadir (KIG) gave the ministers the committee’s suggestions on how to create and strengthen markets, and asked them to clarify the government’s plans and projects for improving produce marketing, better controlling food imports through the trade borders, and preventing smuggling of imported foodstuffs.

The committee said that the Kurdistan Parliament is ready to help the ministries in their work by passing whatever legislation or resolutions may be required to develop and strengthen the agriculture sector.

The MPs also made suggestions on how to improve coordination between farmers, the ministries, traders and sellers, increase marketing expertise and allocate a budget.

Response from Agriculture Minister Begard Talabani

Agriculture Minister Talabani said that the problems farmers are facing today are not new and have existed for many years, and this KRG cabinet has done more work and given more assistance to the agriculture sector than any previous cabinet.

She added that due to the difficulty of moving between governorates due to the Coronavirus travel restrictions, the Agriculture Ministry worked closely with the Interior Ministry on the stages of ploughing, planting, fertilizing to ensure that farmers could work. But once their production was harvested and ready to market, there were too many barriers to sending the produce between Kurdistan’s governorates, and between Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq. Now the problem of sending the goods to the rest of Iraq has been resolved, she said.

Minister Talabani said that the customs tariffs on imported agricultural produce are at their highest ever.

She added that the Agriculture Ministry is responsible for production and bringing the goods to market, and the stages thereafter of finding and creating markets is the responsibility of other departments of the government.

Because of the financial crisis, the minister said, the government was not able to allocate a budget for transport fees.

On the government’s work to develop the sector, Minister Talabani said that there are plans for tomato puree and fruit juice factories, and next year three companies will take up to 500,000 tons a year of Kurdistan’s farmers’ wheat to make flour and other wheat products for domestic needs. A company that has contracts with 7,000 farmers has asked for a licence to build a sugar plants, and there are several poultry investment projects that have been approved, including hen’s eggs to fulfill domestic demand. More than 170 agricultural investment projects have been approved in a year, she said, and a budget allocated to building several dams.

Response from Trade Minister Kamal Muslim Saeed

Trade and Industry Minister Kamal Muslim said that the problem of marketing Kurdistan’s agricultural goods recurs every year, and occurs at the harvest when Kurdistan, and even Iraq, do not have the capacity to sell them all on the market.

Minister Kamal Muslim said that there are many solutions: Cold storage, spreading the timing of harvests, food processing factories, and very importantly finding markets abroad for which the KRG will show Kurdistan’s products at the UAE agricultural fair soon.

The Trade and Industry’s Ministry’s four-year plan, in coordination with the Board of Manufacturing and Industry, places a lot of emphasis on food industries and food processing, and farmers’ types of production and efforts should match with the plan.

The Agriculture Ministry gave the committee statistics and data on the government’s plans to develop the agriculture sector.           

The parliament committee and ministers held a press conference after the meeting.

Education, Higher Education and Scientific Research Committee

8 July – The committee, led by the chair Adusalam Dolamari (KDP), visited Tishk private university. The aim of the visit was to look at universities’ exams process and study methods, and to discuss the Ministry of Higher Education’s decision to reduce private universities’ student fees.  

The MPs stressed that private universities must adhere to the ministry’s decision to reduce students’ fees, particularly in light of the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak and the economic recession.

11 July – The committee, led by the chair Adusalam Dolamari (KDP), visited Erbil Education Directorate and discussed the high school 12th grade final exams which began this week.

The Director briefed the committee on the number of students, number of exam halls and exam requirements.

Mr. Dolamari MP said that they will closely monitor the exams process and called for more protection measures against the Coronavirus for the students sitting exams.

The parliament committee also met Kurdistan Region’s General Directorate of Examinations.

This year the 12th grade final exams were delayed by several weeks due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and started this week.

Social Affairs and Protection of Human Rights Committee

7 July - MPs from the committee, led by the chair Romeo Hakkari (National Union Coalition) and a representative of Ifra, an NGO for humanitarian assistance and development, visited the Court of Appeal (appellate court) for Erbil governorate’s outskirts.

MPs from the committee had in previous weeks visited adults and women’s prisons and young offenders’ institutions in Kurdistan Region’s governorates, to look at conditions and hear prisoners’ and detainees’ demands and problems, particularly about the suspensions and delays to hearing court appeals due to Coronavirus containment measures.

The MPs met with the head of the Court of Appeal for Erbil governorate’s outskirts, Judge Ibrahim Ismail Khoshnaw, who is also the head of the committee formed by the Kurdistan Judicial Council responsible for finding a mechanism for releasing some of the detainees and prisoners. Judge Ibrahim Khoshnaw explained his committee’s recommendations, which have been sent to the President of Kurdistan Region.

Mr. Hakkari MP raised the prisoners’ problems and demands, including granting bail to detainees or getting permission for temporary release of prisoners backed by financial guarantees, conditional release, and exceptional and general pardons (amnesties).

Judge Khoshnaw responded to questions submitted by prisoners and detainees through the Parliament committee.

8 July – Following Coronavirus cases found in prisons in Slemani, MPs from the committee visited prisons, detention centres and transfer centres in Slemani to look into the health of the prisoners.

The director of Slemani prisons directorate and the staff responsible for implementation, legal issues and social affairs explained prisoners’ needs and problems, and the challenges that their directorate faces.

The MPs visited the quarantine areas for prisoners with Coronavirus. Screening for the virus showed 27 positive cases, with three of the patients in unstable condition.

For some detainees in Slemani who are waiting for their court cases to be settled, their hearings have been delayed considerably because of the Ministry of Health’s Coronavirus containment measures and rules.

The parliament committee pledged to the prisoners’ families to follow up with the relevant authorities on the prisoners’ demands and needs.