Iraq eyes foreign contractor benefits

Iraq’s Ministry of Construction and Housing is to push forward measures to attract more international contractors to help rebuild the country.
Iraq eyes foreign contractor benefits
By Angela Giuffrida
Sun 07 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

Iraq’s Ministry of Construction and Housing is to push forward measures to attract more international contractors to help rebuild the country.

Reconstruction efforts since the US-led war in 2003 have been continuously hampered by violence, alleged corruption and red tape, however, the construction and housing body now wants to ease the bureaucracy for international companies with the enforcement of a new law that will mean financial privileges for investors as well as the long-term lease of government-backed construction projects.

The ministry currently has around US$1bn to put towards building new homes, roads and bridges, and is now seeking to benefit from the professional expertise and modern technology that outside investment could bring for more complex projects.

“US$1bn is not enough for these reconstruction projects,” said a representative from the Ministry of Construction and Housing.

“For this reason the Iraqi government has adopted a new law for investors allowing them to invest more easily in the country, and we are counting on this law to attract them.

“In order to secure investment in Iraq, the transfer of money on all profits will be free, and we can lease projects for between 20 to 30 years. We are also open to negotiating any ideas with investors — our aim is to attract them because we need them.”

The ministry’s aim over the next three to five years is to get Iraq’s basic infrastructure and housing needs in place. These include building around 400,000 homes, roads, and bridges, modernising Baghdad’s airport, and setting up water facilities, as well as power and sewage treatment plants.

“This will make Iraq a big investment market, and our basic infrastructure problems can’t be solved unless we encourage and activate investment.”

According to Dr Alaa Al Tamimi, the former Mayor of Baghdad, the main drive towards attracting more outside investment in the reconstruction effort is to ensure long-term work opportunities for Iraqis as well as to benefit from modern construction equipment.

“We have plenty of Iraqi contractors and thousands of engineers. But what we need most is the help of international companies to provide machinery and hi-tech resources for the type of work that will need to be done for complex projects like the proposed Metro Baghdad, such as underground digging equipment.”

Al Tamimi added that Iraq needs to move forward quickly with its reconstruction effort despite the continued insurgency that has affected contractors working in the country since the war ended.

“I cannot say the situation is safe; yes we have political problems, but in the foundation of society there is no real violence. We now need to create a mechanism to push things forward, because I don’t think it’s a good idea to just sit back and wait.”

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