Construction Making a 'Difference' in Iraqi Neighborhoods
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTION, Dec. 9, 2004 With more than 1,000 new construction projects started in November, the Iraqi people are "beginning to see a difference in their neighborhoods," the military commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq said today.
During a press briefing in Baghdad, Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Bostick, who heads the Corps' Gulf Region Division, said a large percentage of the projects are set for completion over the next five to six months. He added that some projects, such as schools, may be completed even faster.
Still, any project completion will depend largely on the security situation in the country. "You really can't have one without the other," he told reporters. "Reconstruction is often difficult if security is not present."
The reconstruction effort of Iraq is mostly in the hands of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Project and Contracting Office in Iraq. Some $18.4 billion has been appropriated.
Bostick explained $12 billion of that figure will go toward physical construction projects and the rest toward "non-construction type" projects and supplies. He estimated that about $2 billion has been disbursed so far and expects another $2 billion more to be spent by the end of December.
Thus far, 57 healthcare centers and 343 schools are under construction, and 12 hospitals are being renovated, Corps officials explained. Other significant project starts include those to generate electricity and to treat water and sewage throughout the country.
In addition, about 75 kilometers of roads are also being built, and renovation work is continuing on railroad stations around the country. And there are 12 new police stations and 120 border posts under construction.
The general also said the reconstruction effort is "two-pronged." The first, he said is to "rebuild the economic infrastructure" with large capital projects such as power, water and sewage treatment plants. The second focus is to quickly restore central services such as schools, clinics and hospitals. Those services are "more visible and often less expensive and put more Iraqis to work," he added, the latter being another important point to the reconstruction effort.
Bostick said that most of the construction work being done on the ground is by Iraqis. And while there are large U.S. companies contracted for reconstruction projects, those companies have incentives to award contracts and subcontracts to Iraqis.
"We want the Iraqi people to rebuild their country, and they want to, so this is our effort to work hand in hand, side by side with them in the rebuilding of this country," he said.
Bostick said he shares concerns from Iraqis about electricity shortages. He noted that the Corps is working as fast as it can to rebuild electrical power plants that have been neglected for years.
"I share your same concerns. It's still not meeting the expectations, in some cases, of some people throughout all of Iraq. They want to have electricity in a better form, in certainly in higher quantities than they are having now."
Nevertheless, he added, "things are moving as rapidly as we can make them move in an environment that we're dealing with."
The general pointed out that power plants can normally take up to two years to rebuild, but "on average we're doing those in about 12 to 13 months here."
Even with a shortage of electricity, Bostick said that most Iraqis are "optimistic about their future," and feel "the future is bright."
"They think that what we are doing in the reconstruction effort is on target," he said.