Fund shortage to hit Iraq projects

Many rebuilding projects for Iraq will be dropped as security costs drain resources and with the growing awareness that more money must be spent to sustain Iraq's existing infrastructure, the top US auditor for Iraq's reconstruction says.

    US President Bush had earlier pledged speedy reconstruction

    In the coming year money needed to operate Iraq's existing health, water, oil and electrical infrastructure and to complete planned reconstruction projects "will outstrip the available revenue", said Stuart Bowen, the US special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.
       
    "Though the causes may be numerous and valid, the existence of the gap simply means that the completion of the US-funded portion of Iraq's reconstruction will leave many planned projects on the drawing board," Bowen told a House of
    Representatives government reform subcommittee.
       
    He said international donors should be pressed to make good on their pledges, and Iraq must crack down on corruption and tighten its budget to try to narrow this difference.
       
    Bowen also said there did not appear to be adequate planning for Iraq's long-term maintenance of its new facilities. It will cost from $650 million to $750 million annually to run the new plants and equipment built largely with US funds, and more for security, salaries and fuel, he said. 

    "Though the causes may be numerous and valid, the existence of the gap simply means that the completion of the US-funded portion of Iraq's reconstruction will leave many planned projects on the drawing board"

    Stuart Bowen,
    US special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction

    "If the US and the world do not buy the necessary time for Iraq to be able to shoulder their own infrastructure, it will risk undermining, or even reversing, the value of the investments we have made," Bowen said.
       
    Democrats pounced on Bowen's report as confirmation that the Bush administration's $30 billion effort to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and train its security forces was failing.
       
    "He too has concluded that there is a great chasm between what the administration has promised and what it has delivered," said Representative Henry Waxman of California, the committee's top Democrat. 
        
    Unfulfilled promises
       
    The Bush administration promised a massive rebuilding programme after the March 2003 US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein and said much of the cost would be born by revenues from Iraqi oil.
       
    Waxman said Iraq's oil production was still well below levels before the invasion. Similarly electricity generation and access to clean water remained at or below pre-war levels, he said, blaming the shortfalls on the administration's non-competitive contracts and failure to secure Iraq.
       
    Democrats also blasted the Pentagon for not having its own auditors on the ground in Iraq to track reconstruction, but instead doing the work from Washington.
       
    Of the almost $30 billion in US funds for Iraq, just 7% had not yet been committed, Bowen said.

    Because the infrastructure is under attack by fighters, up to 26% of the funds have been spent trying to protect the investment, he said.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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