Kuwait pledges $2bn for Iraq’s re­con­struc­tion as $30bn raised

Amir opens KICRI • UN chief urges sup­port for Iraq

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah con­grat­u­lated the Iraqi peo­ple on the victory achieved that led to the de­feat of the so-called Is­lamic State (IS) and abol­ish­ing it from most of its soil. His re­marks came dur­ing the of­fi­cial in­au­gu­ra­tion of the Kuwait In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence for the Re­con­struc­tion of Iraq (KICRI) yes­ter­day. Gov­ern­ments, global funds, or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­vestors pledged bil­lions of dol­lars in loans and in­vest­ment at the con­fer­ence for Iraq, a na­tion reel­ing from a three-year war against IS.

The sig­nif­i­cant level of par­tic­i­pa­tion in this con­fer­ence, whether gov­ern­ment, civil or pri­vate, comes as a global recog­ni­tion of the mag­ni­tude of sac­ri­fices by Iraq in its fight against ter­ror­ism, HH the Amir noted, point­ing out that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity seeks to re­ward these sac­ri­fices that turned the lives of Iraqis in IS-con­trolled ar­eas into a “liv­ing hell”.

The re­sults of this con­fer­ence are a con­tin­u­a­tion of all “our” ef­forts, the Amir said. “Yet, we should not ne­glect the suf­fer­ing of our broth­ers in Syria and Ye­men due to the on­go­ing con­flicts tak­ing place there, but we are con­fi­dent that we and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will sup­port them as soon as se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity are re­stored.”

Sheikh Sabah added that the mag­ni­tude of de­struc­tion in­flicted on Iraq by ter­ror­ist groups can­not be over­looked, which re­quires Iraq to em­bark on an in­clu­sive re­con­struc­tion process that will cover in­fra­struc­ture and other pub­lic util­i­ties, a task that can­not be borne by Iraq alone, which is a mat­ter that has urged “us” to call on the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to par­take and shoul­der its re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“In light of our re­al­iza­tion of such con­se­quences, we con­sid­ered the vi­tal role of the pri­vate sec­tor in rein­vig­o­rat­ing the in­vest­ment en­vi­ron­ment in Iraq. Last night, more than 2,000 busi­nesses from the pri­vate sec­tor came to ex­am­ine in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in Iraq. Also, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions con­trib­uted in less­en­ing the suf­fer­ing of the Iraqi peo­ple,” he said.

HH the Amir, dur­ing the speech, ex­tended ap­pre­ci­a­tion to Iraq, the United Na­tions, the Euro­pean Union and the World Bank, all as co-chairs of KICRI, along with the host coun­try. He con­cluded by an­nounc­ing $1 bil­lion in loans to Iraq through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment, as well as an­other $1 bil­lion in in­vest­ments in Iraq.

Donors had pledged $30 bil­lion by the fi­nal day of the in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence, ac­cord­ing to Kuwait. “The com­mit­ment of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity at the con­fer­ence was clear,” said Kuwaiti For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah, adding that 76 coun­tries, nu­mer­ous in­ter­na­tional funds and global

or­ga­ni­za­tions and hun­dreds of in­vestors had made pledges. Bagh­dad says it needs nearly $90 bil­lion to re­build after a grisly war with IS ex­trem­ists which dev­as­tated homes, schools, hos­pi­tals and eco­nomic in­fra­struc­ture, dis­plac­ing mil­lions of peo­ple.

Top con­trib­u­tors in­cluded Bri­tain and Turkey, though each with its own stip­u­la­tions. Bri­tain said it would grant Iraq ex­port credit of up to $1 bil­lion per year for a decade. Turk­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu said his coun­try would pro­vide $5 bil­lion in loans and in­vest­ment, with­out spec­i­fy­ing the break­down. US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son on Tues­day said the Ex­port-Im­port Bank of the United States was set to ink a $3 bil­lion me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with Bagh­dad, which would “set a stage for future co­op­er­a­tion across key sec­tors of Iraq’s econ­omy in­clud­ing oil and gas, trans­porta­tion, and com­modi­ties”.

The Gulf states, led by host na­tion Kuwait, pledged $5 bil­lion in in­vest­ment, loans and fi­nanc­ing for ex­ports. Iran’s deputy for­eign min­is­ter said Tehran would con­trib­ute to sta­bi­liza­tion ef­forts through the pri­vate sec­tor, with­out an­nounc­ing a fi­nan­cial pledge. Iraq said its 10-year re­con­struc­tion plan would cost $88.2 bil­lion, of which $22 bil­lion was re­quired im­me­di­ately. “We were hop­ing for more,” Iraqi For­eign Min­is­ter Ibrahim Al-Jaa­fari told AFP at the close of the con­fer­ence. “We are not dis­ap­pointed, but the amount was less than ex­pected,” he added.

The World Bank yes­ter­day said the pri­vate sec­tor should play a lead­ing role for a “suc­cess­ful” re­con­struc­tion of Iraq. “Many busi­nesses from around the world have gath­ered here to dis­cuss how they can in­vest in Iraq’s future and cre­ate the jobs that will help bring sta­bil­ity to the coun­try. Their pres­ence in such num­bers shows that Iraq is open for busi­ness,” World Bank Pres­i­dent Jim Yong Kim said, echo­ing com­ments by the head of Iraq’s Na­tional In­vest­ment Com­mis­sion. Kim said the bank’s fi­nan­cial com­mit­ments to Iraq now top $4.7 bil­lion, up from $600 mil­lion in 2014 - though just two new projects worth $510 mil­lion were an­nounced yes­ter­day.

In Kuwait, the gov­ern­ment of Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider Al-Abadi was work­ing to at­tract for­eign cap­i­tal to fund a wide range of re­con­struc­tion projects. But the call for in­vest­ment came just days after an Iraqi court sen­tenced an Iraqi-Amer­i­can anti-cor­rup­tion ac­tivist to six years in jail for defama­tion of state in­sti­tu­tions.

Yes­ter­day, Abadi sought to al­lay fears that funds would be lost to cor­rup­tion, for which the coun­try is no­to­ri­ous. “We will not stop fight­ing cor­rup­tion, which is not less than ter­ror­ism. In fact, it was one of the rea­sons for the rise of ter­ror­ism,” he told the po­ten­tial donors. “Last week, we launched a string of mea­sures to sim­plify pro­ce­dures for in­vest­ments,” Abadi said, adding his cabi­net had rat­i­fied in­ter­na­tional covenants aimed at pro­tect­ing in­vest­ments.

Bagh­dad has put for­ward hun­dreds of projects, from oil re­finer­ies to mas­sive hous­ing and trans­port ven­tures, point­ing to an in­vest­ment law that of­fers own­er­ship, un­lim­ited cash trans­fers and tax breaks, among other ben­e­fits. Na­tional In­vest­ment Com­mis­sion chair­man Sami Al-Araji said in­vestors in Iraq would find “high risks, but high re­turns”.

UN chief An­to­nio Guter­res yes­ter­day sought to mo­ti­vate donors, say­ing it was in­cum­bent on the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to back Iraq after its sac­ri­fices against the ex­trem­ists of the Is­lamic State group. “The whole world owes you a debt for your strug­gle against the deadly global threat posed by Daesh (IS),” Guter­res said, in com­ments directed at the Iraqi del­e­ga­tion. “It is time to demon­strate our last­ing grat­i­tude and sol­i­dar­ity with the Iraqi peo­ple,” he said. Guter­res high­lighted UN-backed ini­tia­tives for which he was seek­ing sup­port. A two-year recovery pro­gram is aimed at mak­ing “im­me­di­ate and tan­gi­ble im­prove­ments to peo­ple’s daily lives” while more cum­ber­some in­fra­struc­ture projects get un­der­way.

— Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: (From left) World Bank Pres­i­dent Jim Yong Kim, Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider Al-Abadi, HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the United Na­tions An­to­nio Guter­res and EU High Com­mis­sioner Fed­er­ica Mogherini at­tend the Kuwait In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence for the Re­con­struc­tion of Iraq yes­ter­day.

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