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  • Thursday, December 08, 2005

    Iraq reconstruction has built utopia! (Yeah, right.)

    From American Progress:

    This morning, President Bush will make the second of three planned speeches on Iraq prior to the December 15 elections -- part of what the Associated Press deems a "public relations campaign" meant to "shore up slumping public support for the war." His address today will focus on reconstruction and Iraq's economy. But rather than reassuring Americans that he recognizes the reality of the challenges we face in Iraq, he plans to tout purported economic progress and "to highlight rebuilding of electrical plants, schools, hospitals and businesses." President Bush is ignoring the big picture. Iraq's reconstruction -- a behemoth effort on par with the post-World War II Marshall Plan -- is simply not achieving its goals. Iraq's economy remains weak and beset by unemployment; basic necessities like potable water and sewage treatment are scarce; and there remains little evidence that the Bush administration is prepared to shift course to reverse these trends.

    President Bush is expected to point today to Iraq's per capita gross domestic product, which "rose to $942 in 2004 and is expected to rise to more than $1,000 this year," as a sign of the country's economic progress. But as Brookings Institution scholar Michael O'Hanlon argues, "Growing GDP is good for those with access to the twin golden rivers flowing through Iraq - not the Tigris and Euphrates, but oil revenue and foreign aid. The rest of the economy is, on the whole, weak." Unemployment rates hover near 40 percent, meaning "the insurgency will always find fresh recruits," in Sen. Joseph Biden's (D-DE) words. And as "the money runs out on the $30 billion American-financed reconstruction of Iraq, the officials in charge cannot say how many planned projects they will complete, and there is no clear source for the hundreds of millions of dollars a year needed to operate the projects that have been finished." Moreover, serious challenges remain: "In its September World Economic Outlook, the IMF also notes that Iraq's new government 'faces daunting medium-term challenges, including advancing the reconstruction of the country's infrastructure, reducing macroeconomic instability and developing the institutions that can support a market-based economy.'"

    U.S. goals for electricity and oil infrastructure reconstruction have not been met. State Department figures show that power generation, "currently at 4,600 megawatts, has only recently exceeded the prewar level of 4,400 megawatts. That's still shy of the 6,000 megawatt objective stated by the Coalition Provisional Authority in September 2003." Most Iraqis continue to have only intermittent access to electricity, and typically "for just half the day." Daily oil production in Iraq is currently around 2.14 million barrels -- not only "less than the average 2.5 million barrels before the 2003 Iraq War," but down to the lowest levels in a decade, according to the London-based Center for Global Energy. "The sluggish production is due to pipeline attacks by insurgents, poor infrastructure, and lack of refineries."

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