Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Iraqi investment boom just around the corner ? (Updated with the latest from Najaf)

The GreenZone newspaper AlSabaah reports from Cairo, where an "investment conference" has been going on, that Iraq has signed contracts worth over $63 billion with a number of global investment corporations, for startup of a number big construction projects. "These include," says the headline, "construction of the big port in Basra, the Baghdad International Airport, gigantic projects in Najaf, and the construction of what will be the largest residential city in the Middle East". The journalist explains:
Major projects, according to Dr Ahmed Radha, president of the Iraqi National Investment Agency, include the big Basra port, rebuilding of the Baghdad Airport, and also construction of housing units and a complete residential city that will count as one of the biggest modern cities in the Middle East...He explained that the value of these projects is: $12 billion for Basra port-construction; $17 billion for construction of the Baghdad Airport along with a commercial city and hotels; 200,000 housing units and hotels [in a] tourist city at the corniche (?) in Kufa in Najaf province, with a value of $34 billion; and construction of a new city of Kut for $650 million.
And it is downhill from there as far as the values are concerned. With the exception of the Baghdad airport, these mega-projects are all in the center and the south of Iraq.

(Presumably the contract arrangements for construction of the US mega-bases elsewhere in the country are just as big or bigger, only not as widely-publicized).

And naturally, there aren't any actual contract details or even names of the corporations involved.

On the same theme, Aswat Al-Iraq says Maliki met with the Australian ambassador on Wednesday and urged him to get in on the ground floor of the coming Iraqi investment boom, suggesting agriculture and construction sectors might appeal to him. He said "the political situation has never been better or stronger," following the recent security improvements in Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul.


And as if to underline the fact that this is mainly a south-central theme, AlHayat (Thursday morning May 22) reports remarks by the governor of Najaf province, urging Arab and Islamic countries in particular to open consulates in Najaf because:
Najaf is witnessing an important construction and investment upswing, particularly considering it is characterized by peace and security, so that Islamic and Arab countries can open consulates there in order to serve its thousands of visitors.
He didn't specifically mention the alleged $34 billion Kufa construction project mentioned above (Kufa being also in Najaf province), but he expressed similar promotional fervor in other ways: The opening this year of the new Najaf airport will enhance the world standing of Najaf in the domains of science, politics and culture, and they are hoping for designation as the "Capital of Islamic Culture" in the year 2012.

Also, the Najaf governor, sounding just a little like a head of state, "renewed calls for cooperation from Saudi Arabia in opening up a land-route for the annual Hajj pilgrimage; and for the signing of a bilateral investment and commercial agreement".


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