Iraq seeks aid to rebuild after Daesh, but donors could be wary

A man walks between destroyed shops in the Old City of Mosul. Iraqi officials say the most urgent priority is to rebuild housing and infrastructure to allow the more than 2 million people displaced by the conflict to return home. (AP)
Updated 24 January 2018
0

Iraq seeks aid to rebuild after Daesh, but donors could be wary

BAGHDAD: Iraq hopes to raise billions of dollars at a conference next month to fund reconstruction after its costly war against the Daesh group, but many fear the country’s endemic corruption could undermine the appeal.
Iraq declared victory over the Daesh group in December after driving the extremists from nearly all the territory they once held, but three years of grueling combat has taken a devastating toll, leaving entire towns and neighborhoods in ruins.
Neighboring Kuwait will host an international conference in mid-February aimed at rallying support for Iraq’s reconstruction. The UN, the US and Saudi Arabia support the initiative, the details of which have yet to be made public.
The US Embassy in Baghdad says the meeting should “provide an important opportunity for the Iraqi government to showcase attractive investment opportunities for foreign investors, including many American companies, and to convince them that Iraq is open for business.”
Iraqi officials have estimated they will need up to $100 billion to rebuild after the war against Daesh. Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — was one of the hardest hit areas. Some 40,000 homes there need to be rebuilt or restored, according to a preliminary study conducted by the UN
Dhannoon Qader works to clear rubble from the Old City neighborhood where he once lived with his family. Without outside aid, he doesn’t believe the city’s infrastructure can be rebuilt. But he acknowledged that many fear government mismanagement.
“We don’t want them to steal the money from every single project,” he said. “The way to do it is to have a decent committee to start the rebuilding, so that no one party or side can exploit the situation.”
Taha Abdul-Ghani, a councilman in the western Anbar province, where the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi sustained heavy damage, said the government “is not able to reconstruct anything,” and expressed hope that donor countries would step in to fill the void.
But many donors may be reluctant to invest in Iraq, an oil-rich country that ranks among the most corrupt in the world, according to Transparency International. The watchdog recently warned that “corruption risks” in Iraq are exacerbated by the country’s “weak capacity to absorb the influx of aid money.”
Many recall the billions of dollars that poured into Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion, much of which was lost to corruption. Nearly 15 years on, residents of Baghdad, which was far from the front lines in the war against Daesh, still experience regular power blackouts and complain of poor public services.
After a recent visit to Mosul, Geert Cappelaere, the regional director of the UN children’s agency, said Iraq’s government would not be able to cope with the “incredible” reconstruction needs on its own. But he said it must prove it can be held accountable, and must provide some of the funding on its own.
“We will call on the international community to be generous, but to be generous with a clear expectation that it yields a difference,” he said. “So, not just throwing more money at Iraq.”
A senior official at Iraq’s Ministry of Housing, Reconstruction and Municipality said this time would be different.
“I agree that in the past, money was squandered on unnecessary or not important projects in non-transparent ways,” Deputy Minister Jabir Abid KHajji said. But he said this time, the “close follow-up, attention and right management” would lead to better results.
The most urgent priority is to rebuild housing and infrastructure to allow the more than 2 million people displaced by the conflict to return home. But Cappelaere said sustained development will require a greater investment in the country’s citizens.
“It’s beautiful to have nice bridges and roads being built,” he said. “But if it doesn’t come with investment in education and getting the best teachers... As long as Iraq does not prioritize investment in human capital, this country is going to go nowhere.”


Two police officers killed after terror suspect blows himself up near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo

Updated 19 February 2019
0

Two police officers killed after terror suspect blows himself up near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo

  • The blast also killed the bomber and injured three other policemen
  • Egypt’s tourism industry has been struggling to recover from attacks and domestic instability

CAIRO: Two police officers were killed when a terror suspect blew himself up after he was surrounded by police near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo on Monday.

The blast in the crowded Darb Al-Ahmar district also killed the bomber and injured three other policemen, the interior ministry said.

“As security surrounded the man and was set to arrest and control him, an explosive device in his possession went off,” the ministry said in a press statement.

The explosion took place after police chased the suspect who they believe had planted a bomb near a security staff close to a mosque in Giza on Friday, the statement said. Security officers had been able to defuse that device.

Monday’s explosion that took place near Al Azhar mosque at the heart of ancient Islamic Cairo damaged several shops.

“My shop’s front and windows were destroyed,” said Kareem Sayed Awad, a barbershop owner. “Not only that, but people have died. This is a tourist area and such incidents affect it.”

Egypt’s tourism industry has been struggling to recover from attacks and domestic instability that has hit the country in the years following a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

In December three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian guide died when a homemade bomb exploded on their bus on the outskirts of Cairo, near the famed pyramids in Giza.

Authorities have been seeking to lure tourists back by touting new archaeological discoveries and bolstering security around archaeological sites and in airports.

Tourism has slowly started picking up. The official statistics agency says tourist arrivals in Egypt in 2017 reached 8.3 million, up from 5.3 million the year before.

But that figure was still far short of the record influx in 2010 when over 14 million visitors flocked to the country.

Egypt has also for years been battling an Islamist insurgency, which deepened following military’s ousting of Islamist president Muhammad Mursi in 2013.

The attacks have been mainly concentrated in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula but have also spread to the mainland.

In February 2018, security forces launched a major anti-militant operation focused on the Sinai Peninsula, aimed at wiping out a local affiliate of the Daesh group.

On Saturday, an attack on an Egyptian army checkpoint in north Sinai left 15 soldiers dead or wounded and seven of the suspected jihadist assailants killed, according to the military.
 

(With AFP)