Rebuilding in Iraq Shifts to Self-Sustaining Iraqi Effort
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 1, 2007 Rebuilding Iraq is shifting from a U.S.-led “jump start” effort to a self-sustaining Iraqi driven phase, the director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office said today.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has built the majority of its large projects, Ambassador Joseph Saloom, director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office.
“It is a shift away from us building large things … to more working to build their capacity to do things for themselves,” Saloom said.
All but 15 percent of the $13.4 billion Iraq Relief and Reconstruction fund has been spent, and that will drop by another 5 percent by the end of the year, he said.
Saloom said the new focus is on Iraqi “budget execution,” or getting the Iraqi government to spend the money it allocates on the projects it designates.
Last year, the Iraqi government implemented only 40 percent of its capital budget, he said.
“They seem to be able to spend money on salaries and so forth, but when it comes to actually channeling their considerable resources to actually build things for the population, that is an area where they need our help and where we are concentrating our assistance,” Saloom said.
The United States is helping with both immediate technical assistance and longer-term training, he added.
The Iraqi government has passed its 2007 budget and already has distributed 10 percent of those funds to the provinces, he said.
Iraq is endowed in natural resources, Saloom noted, and he said newly passed legislation should help attract private investors to the region.
Saloom’s office coordinates overall U.S. government efforts to promote reconstruction and economic growth in Iraq. He also manages the funds appropriated by Congress for supporting economic and democratic development and reconstruction in the country.
On any given day, the Gulf Region Division of the Corps of Engineers is working on about 1,100 projects.
In the region to date, 976 of 1,045 planned school projects are complete, 154 border forts have been built, 92 of 97 planned fire stations are finished, and 93 of 102 planned railroad station renovation projects are complete.
The Corps of Engineers hires about 30,000 Iraqis to work the construction projects.
The United States has contributed almost $22 billion toward rebuilding Iraq. The World Bank estimated that the total cost of rebuilding the country could end up being as much as $80 billion.