Iraq urges billions for reconstruction amid donor fatigue

Iraq urges billions for reconstruction amid donor fatigue
Iraq urges billions for reconstruction amid donor fatigue. picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Gambrell
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The Iraqi government needs $88.2 billion (€71.92 billion) for reconstruction efforts after its victory against the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group, Iraqi Planning Minister Salman al-Jumaili said at the opening of an international conference on the issue in Kuwait on Monday.

He said the figure was based on a study by Iraqi and international experts, who assessed the impact of the conflict that left large swathes of the country destroyed and approximately 2.5 million people displaced.

Global responsibility

"Rebuilding Iraq is restoring hope to Iraq, and restoring the stability of Iraq is stabilizing the states of the region and the world," al-Jumaili told delegates, adding that the reconstruction was therefore partly the international community's responsibility.

Read more: Iraq to resume oil reparations to Kuwait for Gulf War devastation, says UN

His words are likely to fall on deaf ears in Washington and elsewhere in the West, partly due to donor fatigue amid several conflicts and refugee crises globally, and US President Donald Trump's more protectionist stance.

US officials have already said there will be no new pledges of assistance for Iraq's reconstruction drive, after Washington pumped some $60 billion into rebuilding the country following the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Private sector involvement

Although US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will attend the donor conference on Tuesday, he will instead call for multinational companies and banks to boost their activities in the war-torn country. Thousands of private sector delegates, including representatives from more than 100 American firms are expected to attend.

Analysts said Iraqi leaders are expected to pressure Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states to step up to the plate.

Read more: Saudi minister makes first trip to Baghdad since 1990, promises new ambassdor

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also vowed his country's support during a visit to Iraq on Monday, without giving a specific figure.

"I have come to tell you of France's support to accompany you. We will always be there. We were there to participate in the coalition (against IS). We will also be there in the reconstruction phase," he said.

About $22 billion is required in the short term and another $66 billion in the medium term, the director-general of the country's planning ministry, Qusay Adulfattah, told the conference, which lasts until Wednesday.

New housing needed

Housing is one of the most urgent priorities, delegates heard, after some 140,000 homes were destroyed during the conflict against the jihadist group.

Mahdi al-Alaq, the Secretary-General of Iraq's Council of Ministers, said the Baghdad government had been given preliminary indications that some states were prepared to act as guarantors with lenders, allowing Iraq to take out soft loans to fund infrastructure projects,

Read more: Iraq's political landscape in disarray

Oil-rich Iraq’s economy was weakened by years of international sanctions under Saddam Hussein's regime. The years of insurgency, sectarian violence and ethnic tensions that followed his overthrow in 2003 helped fuel the emergence of IS, a little more than a decade later.

Iraq declared victory over the jihadists in December, having taken back all the territory captured by the militants in 2014 and 2015.

mm/uhe (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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