U.S.-Funded Projects to Propel Iraqi Economic Renaissance
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 29, 2004 After enduring decades under a corrupt state-run economy, the Iraqi people are poised for an economic renaissance through reconstruction projects funded by an $18.4 billion American grant, senior U.S. and Iraqi officials announced today in Baghdad.
"The waiting is all but over. The partnership between the American and Iraqi people for the reconstruction of Iraq is on the move," Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, Coalition Provisional Authority administrator, told reporters during a news briefing.
This "Partnership for Prosperity," Bremer noted, will benefit all Iraqis and "is based on the commitment of the American people to provide substantial support" to transform Iraq into an economically stable, democratic country "at peace with itself and with its neighbors."
Remaining contracts recently were signed for 2,300 Iraq reconstruction programs to be completed over the next several years, Bremer said.
The reconstruction of Iraq's economic health "is a major undertaking," Bremer acknowledged, pointing to the decades of rampant corruption and cronyism under Saddam Hussein's Stalinist-styled economic system.
Today, the World Bank estimates that Iraq needs $55 billion to $60 billion to completely resuscitate its economy, Bremer said. America's contribution, he noted, is "the largest sum our country has ever committed to another country at one time."
Bremer said the reconstruction program will have created about 50,000 new Iraqi construction jobs by the June 30 transfer of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government. More jobs, numbering in the tens of thousands, he added, will be provided for Iraqis as reconstruction efforts hit high gear.
"These reconstruction projects will put muscle and sinew behind the sound economic policies already in place," Bremer promised.
Iraqi Minister of Planning Mahdi Hafedh, who also attended the press briefing, offered gratitude for the program. "It gives me pleasure to present my thanks to Ambassador Bremer and the American administration and the American people for the generous aid they present" for the rebuilding of Iraq, he said.
Hafedh said his office would help coordinate reconstruction efforts. He noted that such programs will help build a new Iraq and liberate millions of Iraqis "from poverty and the poor standard of living that were inherited" from the Saddam Hussein regime.
Some projects funded under the reconstruction program should start breaking ground next month, said retired Navy Rear Adm. David J. Nash, director of the CPA's program management office. Nash's office is charged with managing the $18.4 billion Iraq reconstruction grant.
About $12.6 billion of the reconstruction work, Nash said, falls under six categories: electricity, water resources and public works, security and justice, transportation and communications, buildings, health and education, and oil. Another $5.8 billion of the U.S. fund is devoted to nonconstruction endeavors, he said, such as civic education and purchases of uniforms, weapons, vehicles, training and other goods and services.
A $4 billion reserve fund, Nash said, probably will be used for construction purposes after the June 30 handover. The admiral added that his office would continue operations with the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad after the CPA is dissolved.
Hafedh pointed out that of the 260 companies that have signed contracts funded by the U.S. reconstruction fund, 140 are Iraqi firms. Thousands of subcontracting jobs, he added, are likely to be created as part of Iraq reconstruction efforts.
"This is a great opportunity for the construction industry here in Iraq to flourish," Nash said.