IRAQ RE­CON­STRUC­TION Kuwait to give $2 bil­lion in loans, in­vest­ments for Iraq

Sun.Star Cebu - - BUSINESS - AP

Kuwait’s rul­ing emir said on Wed­nes­day that his oil-rich na­tion will give $1 bil­lion in loans and $1 bil­lion in di­rect in­vest­ments to help re­build Iraq, a stun­ning do­na­tion as only a gen­er­a­tion ago Sad­dam Hus­sein in­vaded the small, oil-rich na­tion.

Sheikh Sabah Al Ah­mad Al Sabah’s of­fer shows the deep in­ter­est his na­tion has in mak­ing sure Iraq be­comes a peace­ful, sta­ble coun­try af­ter the war against the Is­lamic State group and the chaos that fol­lowed the 2003 U.S.led in­va­sion of Bagh­dad.

“This large as­sem­bly of in­ter­na­tional com­mu­ni­ties that are here to­day is re­flec­tive of the large loss that Iraq with­stood in fac­ing ter­ror­ism,” Sheikh Sabah said at a donor’s sum­mit at Kuwait City’s Bayan Palace.

“Iraq can­not com­mence the mis­sion of re­build­ing it­self with­out sup­port, which is why we are all here to­day from all around the world, to stand by Iraq’s side,” he added.

How­ever, the coun­try needs far more do­na­tions on Wed­nes­day, the last day of an appeal for fund­ing to come for­ward at the Kuwait con­fer­ence. Over­all, Iraq is seek­ing $88.2 bil­lion in aid from donors.

Among the hard­est-hit ar­eas in Iraq is the city of Mo­sul, which Iraqi forces, aided by a US-led coali­tion, re­cap­tured from the Is­lamic State group in July 2017. Ira­nian-backed Shi­ite mili­tias also par­tic­i­pated in the op­er­a­tion, fight­ing in the vil­lages around the city.

The vic­tory came at a steep cost for Mo­sul, as coali­tion airstrikes and ex­trem­ist sui­cide car bombs de­stroyed homes and govern­ment build­ings.

Of the money needed, Iraqi of­fi­cials es­ti­mate that $17 bil­lion alone needs to go to­ward re­build­ing homes, the big­gest sin­gle line item of­fered Mon­day, on the first day of meet­ings. The United Na­tions es­ti­mates 40,000 homes need to be re­built in Mo­sul alone.

The war against the Is­lamic State group dis­placed more than 5 mil­lion peo­ple in Iraq, only half of whom have re­turned to their home­towns.

How­ever, of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edge a feel­ing of fa­tigue from in­ter­na­tional donors, es­pe­cially af­ter the wars in Iraq and Syria sparked the big­gest mass mi­gra­tion since World War II.

The United States un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump also seems un­in­ter­ested in di­rectly in­vest­ing in Iraq’s re­con­struc­tion.

The US alone spent $60 bil­lion over nine years — some $15 mil­lion a day — to re­build Iraq. Around $25 bil­lion went to Iraq’s mil­i­tary, which dis­in­te­grated dur­ing the light­ning 2014 of­fen­sive of the Is­lamic State group, which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq. US govern­ment au­di­tors also found mas­sive waste and cor­rup­tion, fu­el­ing sus­pi­cions of Western politi­cians like Trump who want to scale back for­eign aid.

Mean­while, re­gional ten­sions may af­fect how spend­ing comes. Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif at­tended the meet­ing, skip­ping a group pho­to­graph held be­fore. Mean­while, Saudi Ara­bia and other Gulf na­tions re­main sus­pi­cious of Iran’s in­flu­ence in Iraq. /

SHEIKH SABAH AL AH­MAD AL SABAH

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