Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser, who’s currently participating in a conference on rebuilding Iraq, has told DW the German technology giant will play a strong role in reconstruction through its expertise and long-standing ties.
DW: When one sees pictures of the war-torn areas of Iraq, there is little to inspire hope. What gives you hope that the country can be rebuilt?
Joe Kaeser: The country has gone through massive turmoil and its people deserve peace, freedom and a better life. The government is setting the course for this by rigorously fighting terror and fostering economic growth through an ambitious reform program. Measures include accelerating reconstruction efforts, developing human capital and creating jobs.
The Iraqi government estimates the cost of reconstruction at around $88 billion (€71.1 billion), with $22 billion needed in the immediate short-term for emergency aid. Investments in housing and infrastructure are urgently needed. How can Siemens help?
Siemens is proud and we are grateful to be part of Iraq’s future, just as we have been part of its past, while we never left, also not in the most difficult times. After more than eight decades of working on key infrastructure projects in Iraq together with our local partners, we are well-positioned to support the country’s transition towards a stable and thriving economy.
However, we don’t see our role restricted to being a technology partner, but one that also facilitates financing solutions for projects and contributes to local skills development through education and training. Iraq’s young population, its improved stability and leadership, and its wealth in natural resources create a strong foundation on which to build a prosperous society and develop a great future for the country and its people.
Joe Kaeser has been chief executive (CEO) of Munich-based Siemens AG since July 2013
There are reportedly 157 projects for which Iraq is looking for private investment. Can you tell us what kind of projects are we talking about and which ones are of particular interest to Siemens?
We recently signed a number of service contracts with the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity. The latest includes maintenance and upgrade services for seven power generating units inside four power plants, located in the areas of South Basra, Salah El Deen, Middle Region and Middle Euphrates. This project will enhance the reliability and efficiency of these units, helping them collectively generate more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) of power – 400 MW more than is being generated today – saving up to 10 percent in fuel consumption.
This is enough to supply approximately three million Iraqis with reliable electricity. Well, we can not only produce electrical power but can also transport and distribute them in a comprehensive way. There is no other company in the space which can do all aspects – power generation, transmission and distribution – out of one hand. This “one-stop-shop” is very convenient and safe for our customers to get assurance for a job well done. However, Siemens can also support the country’s development across different areas that are critical to sustainable economic growth. These include transportation, healthcare, building technologies and intelligent urban infrastructure.
The investment climate in Iraq is obviously less than ideal at the moment. German Development Minister Gerd Müller has already spoken in Kuwait of excessive red tape, opaque tendering processes and rampant corruption. Why have such issues not stopped you from getting involved in Iraq?
We have been partners to the Iraqi people for more than 80 years. We always stayed, never left and have become a trusted and reliable partner. We do help society and we make good on what we promise. Just as we did in Egypt with our mega-project, delivering three of the world’s largest power plants of their kind in record time, we can do the same in Iraq. The Iraqi government and people can count on Siemens as a strong and reliable partner to support the country’s development goals.
Siemens already agreed a comprehensive energy partnership with the Iraqi government in March 2016. How far down the road are those projects and to what extent can they be linked to the new ones?
We are very capable and experienced to bring reliable, affordable and sustainable power to every citizen of Iraq. This is the cornerstone of the country’s social and economic development. Securing availability of electricity is probably Iraq’s biggest challenge right now. We know the electricity grid is under tremendous stress, especially during the summer. With demand for electricity increasing rapidly every year, Iraq would need to boost the country’s power generating capacity by 40 gigawatts (GW) by 2025. Therefore, a transformational approach is required, led by new projects that include fast and reliable power supply, technology upgrades as well as renewing and upscaling the existing power grid.
Our proven technology is already being deployed in many power plants in Iraq. We are proud that our customers in Iraq are very satisfied with these projects and look forward to doing more.
Siemens has done a study of the country’s power landscape in Iraq and developed a comprehensive plan to address its challenges, from a technological as well as from a financing perspective. We possess local know-how, but also reliable and tested technology that can support the country’s energy requirements for the short, medium and long-term. We know what needs to be done to upgrade the energy system in an economically optimized way and offer to work hand-in-hand with the Iraqi government to make this a reality in a short period of time. We have done mega-projects in the Middle East, executed in world record time. So we have excellent local experience and know how here in the region.
The interview was conducted by DW business editor Henrik Böhme.