By Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, July 10, 2006 – American know-how and dollars are revitalizing a decrepit Iraqi infrastructure that had withered under Saddam Hussein's rule, a senior U.S. military officer said in Baghdad today. The United States has contributed almost $22 billion earmarked for some 3,700 planned infrastructure-renewal projects across Iraq, Army Maj. Gen. William H. McCoy Jr. told reporters in Baghdad. More than 3,400 of those projects have been started, McCoy said, and 2,700 have been completed.
This good-news story highlights "some of the positive things that are happening in Iraq," said McCoy, commander of the Gulf Region Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Iraqi reconstruction has been undertaken in every sector, McCoy said. "We have built new power plants and refurbished dozens of turbines around the country," he said. "We are building water treatment plants to provide fresh potable water to Iraqis."
Additionally, "we are now installing sewage treatment plants in parts of the country to begin the process to get the sewage out of the streets and make Iraq a more healthy country," the general said. U.S. efforts also have helped build, expand or renovate thousands of schools across Iraq, McCoy said, improving the learning environment for Iraqi schoolchildren. American assistance also has built new police stations, medical clinics and hospitals for the Iraqi people, he said.
"All of this has been done in close coordination with the Iraqi government and now, with the permanent government in place, with their leadership," McCoy pointed out. Saddam's brutal rule had a devastating effect on Iraq's people and infrastructure, McCoy said, noting Iraq was the second-most prosperous country in the region before he seized power in 1979. The dictator's policies pushed Iraq into economic decay, McCoy noted, and scant attention was paid to maintaining the country's infrastructure.
A World Bank survey conducted in 2003 estimated that $60 billion would be needed to resuscitate Iraq's post-Saddam infrastructure, McCoy said. Follow-on studies now peg those reconstruction costs at $80 to $100 billion. Iraq's infrastructure is nonetheless getting back onto its feet, McCoy said. He noted that investments dedicated to reviving the country's petroleum and gas industries -- one of the richest in the world -- are paying dividends.
For example, Iraq will be on target to produce 3 million barrels a day in oil plus 3,000 tons a day of liquid petroleum gas after related projects are completed at the end of this year, McCoy predicted. U.S.-assisted reconstruction efforts, in tandem with a democratically elected government, have put the Iraqi people on the path toward brighter economic times, he said. "With a stable and maturing government will come increased security, which will be good for the Iraqi people," McCoy said. "The facilities with the Iraqis today are but the beginning of the great future this country has."