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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 April 2006, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
My day in Iraq: Businessman
On Friday, 7 April, the BBC News website is asking people across Iraq how they live their lives.

Here, Waria Salhi, a Kurd, who works for a construction company, talks about his long working day in the northern city of Kirkuk.

I get up at about 7am to prepare for my day in which I work two jobs.

Waria Salhi
Waria Salhi's business skills are in demand in Kirkuk

I'll shower and get breakfast, maybe some yogurt with walnuts and hot tea.

My principal job is as vice-president of a successful company that does construction work and helps foreigners invest money in Iraq.

I live and work in the same compound, so I'm always near work. It's very secure and we have 24-hour armed guards so I feel safe, although I don't exactly feel free.

When I get to work I have a meeting with staff to discuss the day's projects. At the moment we're working on power plants and other infrastructure projects and a lot of US army projects.

Communications have improved greatly.

A year ago we had to drive or send messages to contact people in other parts of the country, but now the mobile phone network is excellent.

After checking my e-mails, I usually have a few people who have come to me to ask for work, like sub-contractors.

Security threat

At about 11am, I tell my guards to prepare for the trip to the Kirkuk Business Centre (KBC).

We take the back roads in a convoy of three armoured cars. We avoid the rush hour between 7 and 8am - this is when the bombs are.

We also regularly change cars and take different routes to avoid the danger of falling into a routine.

At the KBC we provide programmes to local businessmen in Kirkuk to help them improve their level of business and we also provide incentives like tax breaks to foreign investors.

I think we're about five years away from creating an effective private sector.

The main business here is oil, alongside agriculture, but at the moment the government controls all the oil.

There is about 60% unemployment in Kirkuk. The problem is not the skill levels of people, but that they have been working for the government for so long that they are not used to working under commercial pressures.

Corruption problem

Democracy has brought a lot of opportunity to Iraqis and people here in Kirkuk are happier because their incomes have increased massively, but there are still economic problems like corruption.

There is so much money now in Iraq but there isn't enough government regulation in place to prevent corruption, or consequences to being corrupt.

Kirkuk town
Salaries in Kirkuk have greatly increased since the invasion, says Waria

Most of the time I skip lunch and try to get back to my other job after about four hours at KBC.

By 4pm here, it's time to start working with the US so I don't leave the office at the earliest until 9pm, and if there's a big project not until 2am.

I won't relax until the weekend, when I will go to a place about an hour and a half from Kirkuk.

It is safe there and I can relax, although I still have a bodyguard.

I had to leave Iraq in 1991 because I am a Kurd and took refuge in the US where I studied business - I am one of the lucky ones to have a life in Iraq and another in the US where my wife and son, who is one year old, live.

Some of my friends weren't so lucky in escaping and they were executed.

I believe in democracy after having lived in one and I see it as my duty to my country to provide services to people who have not had such opportunity.


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