As Iraq’s reconstruction is discussed in Kuwait, Mar Sako bemoans promises, demands action
Some US$ 88 billion will be needed to repair the damage caused by Iraq’s wars, including the one with the Islamic State group. The UN secretary general calls on the world to support the country’s recovery. The Chaldean patriarch voices scepticism. He noted that discussions did not mention minorities whilst money could fuel corruption and terrorism. Education and jobs are the bases for national rebirth.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Rebuilding Iraq after its many brutal wars, the last against the Islamic State group (aka Daesh), will require at least US$ 88 billion. The money will be used to repair damaged infrastructure and build new ones, restore homes, schools, public buildings and foster new investments, this according to the Iraq donors conference in Kuwait that opened on Monday and ended today.
Much was said about money and many promises were made, the Chaldean patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako told AsiaNews, "but that will not bear much fruit because we have not seen specific projects" that can be implemented in the immediate future.
On the third and last day of the summit, Kuwait’s ruler, Shaikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah pledged US$ 2 billion for “our Iraqi brothers".
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who was present at the conference, appealed for action to "support the efforts" of reconstruction in Iraq.
“The whole world owes you a debt for your struggle against the deadly global threat posed by Daesh,” Guterres said.
The initial goal of the conference was to ensure the economic and social rebirth of Iraq after two bloody wars, the US invasion, the escalation of terrorism and the rise of the Islamic State.
Experts estimate that damages caused by the fight against Daesh amounts to US$ 88.2 billion.
The Iraqi government hopes that the international meeting in Kuwait will attract international investment and cover at least part of the reconstruction costs.
Foreign aid remains essential to meeting the country’s needs, even though the way the funds are managed have been a source of controversy.
For the Chaldean patriarch, "Iraq does not need only money but also solidarity, support, real projects already presented. Iraq needs a 'Magna Charta' for democracy, citizenship and security.”
"The danger,” he adds, “is that money may end up, as in the past, in the pockets of corrupt people or fund jihadist groups still present in the territory".
For Mar Sako, the fight against corruption "remains the priority", along with the plans to boost "the education sector, which is the basis on which to rebuild a united, supportive and peaceful country".
In his view, it was inappropriate to hold the conference at this point in time, just before Iraq’s general elections. This, he said, “was not the right time", just "three months before the elections". The danger is that it may be another form of "propaganda" with nothing for the civilian population.
"Moreover, none of the participants spoke about minorities, Christians and Yazidis, and this is very serious,” Mar Sako noted. “Rebuilding the villages and towns in the Nineveh Plain and restarting economic activities are essential to guarantee the future of the region and ensure the survival of that unique mosaic that is Iraq."
Education, citizenship, equal rights and duties, and jobs should be the priority. "Iraq should have asked for help to rebuild factories that can provide jobs to so many people. This ought to be the basis of the country’s rebirth, not ad hoc promises of money that offer no guarantee of recovery."
A recent report on the damages caused by repeated wars shows that the hardest-hit sector was housing, suffering damage amounting to billion — around 35 per cent of the total damage.
The energy, oil and gas sector suffered damage of around US$ 11 billion; the industrial and trade sector US$ 5 billion; agriculture, more than US$ 2 billion; education US$ 2.4 billion; and the health sector US$ 2.3 billion.
Overall, Iraq needs US$ 22.9 billion in the short term and .4 billion in the medium term for reconstruction and recovery.
Seven governorates in northern and eastern Iraq suffered US$ 46 billion in damage. Recovery money is also needed in the security sector, which requires US$ 14 billion, as well the banking sector, which lost US$ 10 billion in cash assets.
Human losses in the fight against the Islamic State group are estimated to be 18,000 killed and 36,000 wounded. But that number may well be low.
Just retaking Mosul, the "capital" of the Caliphate, cost the lives of more than 10,000 people. In the Nineveh Plain, 90 per cent of the villages and towns were destroyed. (DS)