$ 30bn pledged to Iraq

The Guardian
$ 30bn pledged to Iraq

A global donor conference has pledged almost $30bn (£21bn) to help Iraq rebuild after the ravages of Islamic State, about a third of what the country estimates it will need long term. As the Guradian writes in the article Donor conference pledges $30bn to help Iraq rebuild after Isis, the money is a mix of grants, loans and investment promises, with neighbours Kuwait, Turkey and Saudi Arabia among the biggest donors, along with nearby Qatar.

The US, which occupied Iraq from 2003 to 2011 and led the air war against Isis, was notable by its absence, however. Officials said in advance that Washington would not be pledging funds at the conference. The challenge now for Iraq will be turning those pledges into actual cash, and ensuring it is put to good use, not siphoned away through corruption. After the government declared its three-year war with Isis over, Haider al-Abadi, the prime minister, said the next big fight would be against corruption.

The NGP Transparency International ranks Iraq as the 10th most corrupt countryin the world, with theft and fraud damaging growth of the economy and confidence in the government. The fight against Isis left much of Iraq in ruins; at its peak the Islamist group controlled almost a third of Iraqi territory, and it was only pushed out of a chain of key cities at heavy cost. Isis fighters’ embrace of death in battle, the group’s bomb-making capacity and the months in which to dig in before each battle led to brutal street-to-street fighting. Huge bombs, delivered by the warplanes of the US and its allies, added to the devastation. In some roads barely a building was left standing.

Much of the initial money from the donors is needed for emergency aid and housing. More than $20bn will be needed for short-term reconstruction and almost three times as much for rebuilding over the medium term, said Qusay Adulfattah, the head of Iraq’s planning ministry. The money is needed for everything from key infrastructure such as Mosul airport to building hospitals, homes, schools and roads. The government also hopes to diversify away from crude oil sales that are currently the heart of the economy.

If the world cannot find the cash to support Iraq’s reconstruction, as it races to find homes and jobs for people displaced by the fighting, there is a risk that instability will rise again. “Rebuilding Iraq is restoring hope to Iraq, and restoring the stability of Iraq is stabilizing the states of the region and the world,” said Salman al-Jumaili, the planning minister.

Although Isis no longer holds territory in Iraq, not all fighters were killed or captured in the final battles. It is still thought capable of mounting devastating attacks.

The head of Unmas, the UN’s mine clearance agency, warned that it would have to reassess priorities if donors do not stump up enough cash for it to continue with its difficult and dangerous work. Unmas has the painstaking task of finding and deactivating the booby traps laced through homes, places of worship and other buildings in areas once held by Isis, so that residents can return.

So far it has been promised $116m but needs almost three times as much to complete work planned for this year, Pehr Lodhammar, the head of Unmas, told reporters. He added that if Unmas did not received the money, it would have to discuss with the Iraqi government “what we do, and what we leave for now and maybe address later on”.