By Army Staff Sgt. Amber Emery
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 13, 2009 - Improved security has enabled an economics team to step up its efforts to help Iraq move forward. "The security improvement has made it possible for us to grow the economy and build the skills and capacity of both government officials and Iraqi businessmen," Army Lt. Col. Barry Ross, deputy economics team leader for the 445th Civil Affairs Detachment, said.
Ross explained that economics and governance go hand in hand. If government officials are qualified and competent, he said, they can stimulate economic growth. With a stable government, investors will trust that their money will grow and won't get lost in a broken system.
"We are doing two things with economics in Multinational Division Center," Ross said. "We are working with the provincial governments to try to get them some training to help them build their capacity and skills to attract business and grow the economy, and we are working directly with provincial reconstruction teams and brigade combat teams to try to get business into the economy."
Several programs in the division's area of operations help to develop and sustain economic progress.
A team of experts in entrepreneurship recently completed an initial tour in Najaf to gain understanding of the dynamics of small businesses and entrepreneurship in southern Iraq, with the goal of increasing employment and growing the job market.
In another initiative, an advisor for the Najaf Provincial Investment Committee will work through the Najaf PRT to provide expertise for both short- and long-term dollar investments.
"There are a couple of other initiatives, with some being from the government perspective and others also trying to cover the private end as well," Ross said. "We work with the government a good bit, but we also need to realize we need to get the private industry going. Ultimately, the more private industry we get here, the better it will be."
One successful example is a new dairy factory that recently received a $500,000 private loan from the Bank of Baghdad for an expansion project. This project alone will produce 200 to 300 new jobs. This project reaches about 4,000 Iraqis, Ross noted, a number that includes family members supported by these jobs.
"This is why I say private investment is so key," he said.
Small businesses in the area can consist of just about anything, as long as entrepreneurs and capital are available. State-owned industries, such as an automotive factory, textile industries and a transportation business, also operate in the area.
"It's not just the number of people actually employed," Ross said. "It is the number of Iraqis that are now feeling satisfied and have money coming into the house and don't have to turn to other means, such as terrorism, to get money to support their family. That is why economics is so important here."
(Army Staff Sgt. Amber Emery serves in the Multinational Division Center public affairs office.)