From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Entire cities, including western Mosul and Ramadi, have been destroyed in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in Iraq.

The Iraqi government says large-scale reconstruction across the country hasn’t started yet because it doesn’t have the money.

About $90 billion is needed to rebuild the country after 15 years of war since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, but Iraq’s allies pledged only $30bn At a donor conference in February.

Al Jazeera‘s Charles Stratford reports from Iraq’s capital Baghdad:

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Kamal al-Ayash.

The authorities are spending a lot of money on reconstruction in the Anbar province. But locals are complaining, saying basic needs are not being fulfilled and the rest is just window dressing.

When you arrive in the major Anbar cities of Fallujah or Ramadi, you would be forgiven for thinking that reconstruction is well under way. But if you head out of the city centres and check the residential neighbourhoods you will see disconnected power lines and broken water pipes, as well as those who live here working outdoors, trying to fix such things.

Many Anbar locals, who were displaced by the extremist group known as the Islamic State, have now returned to their homes.

“In January 2018, for the first time in more than three years, there were more returnees than internally displaced people,” the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration reported recently. Thanks to improving conditions, Anbar province has seen the largest number of returnees in Iraq, the organization noted.

Many of those who returned say they came back because the Iraqi government told them there would be a swift return to normality and reconstruction. However many of the locals who have come back have found that although there is reconstruction, the authorities undertaking it seem to have some misplaced priorities and that they must provide for themselves, rather than wait for the government to fix things.

Ahmad Abdul-Hamid, 43, has just finished fixing up his barber shop in Fallujah. He was ready to open again but found he could not get to his premises because the municipal authorities were removing and replacing the sidewalks. This kind of work is impressive and shows that the authorities care about the citizens, Abdul-Hamid says, but their timing was off. They should ask the people here what they need and want, and prioritize that, he argues.

“The sidewalks that are being removed and replaced have no real impact on our lives. It wouldn’t have mattered if they had not been reconstructed for years,” Abdul-Hamid said, adding that he would have preferred to see the water and sewage networks fixed first, because these are things that actually endanger people’s lives.

“The money seems to be being spent in an unplanned, uncoordinated way,” Abdul-Hamid complains. “It should be used to compensate those who are still living in tents, in the middle of the rubble that was once their home.”

Locals say it is true that dozens of reconstruction projects have been completed. But they believe that at least some of these have been finished at the expense of their own basic needs.

Another Fallujah local, Jihad al-Dulaimi, 44, tells NIQASH that when he asked the city council for new wiring for power cables so he could fix his own electricity supply, he was told that there was no budget for this. Al-Dulaimi was angry and replied that they had somehow got enough funds to renovate their own council offices.

“Working in this way, the government is disregarding the real needs of the people here,” he says. “We don’t want to see huge sums spent on projects that are clearly not urgent and which could be postponed.”

Al-Dulaimi also questioned why efforts were being made to build a new park when bridges were still damaged and new sidewalks painted, when the streets were impassable.

Many Fallujah residents share that opinion. They believe that officials are embarking on easy-to-complete projects that make them look good, just in time for federal elections in May.

It’s not that we are not appreciative, says Mahdi al-Halbusi, a 51-year-old living in Ramadi, but “it feels like the authorities are decorating the outside of a house, in which nobody can live because the insides are so damaged”.

He and his family returned to Ramadi over a year ago and he feels as though a lot of the completed projects have just been attempts at image making. “Nothing has really changed, the situation is still tragic, since we returned,” he says.

Al-Halbusi says he likes walking around some areas, where there are new, coloured pavements and where the government offices and other nearby buildings look so nice. But that feeling gives way to dismay as soon as he enters any of the residential areas.

“I used to think my mother was the only person who would prepare the house for visitors by putting away our everyday things and bringing out the best,” he jokes. “After the visitors left, we would go back to normal, with everything back in its usual place. That is exactly what it feels like in this city now.”

By John Lee.

Iraq’s National Investment Commission (NIC) has included six industrial projects in its list of major strategic projects to be presented during the Kuwait International Conference for Iraq Reconstruction, to be held in Kuwait from 12th to 14th February:

A. Rehabilitation and development of white cement plants in Falluja.

  • Area: 642000m²
  • Production capacity: 290000 ton/year for the two lines. Production capacity can be increased to 350000 t/y
  • Cost for Rehabilitating and operating is $12.800.000
  • Experienced staff is available to operate the plant
  • The plant (which is the only one in Iraq that produces white cement) is not working at the present time. Cement plants in Kubaisa, Qaim, in Anbarand Badoosh, Sinjar, HamamAl Alilin Mosul are going through damage assessment by special committees (for the damages that occurred during 2014-2017).

B. Rehabilitation and development of glass plants in Ramadi

  • Multipurpose raw glass (13 type of glass), such as glass for buildings, automobile and mirrors
  • Iraq’s need for float glass is doubling annually. The current estimate of 1500 t/d covers the local market. The unique location of the plant is suitable for exporting this product to the neighboring countries as raw or final product.
  • Target production capacity: 500000 t/y to be divided into two phases according to market capacity and required types.
  • Annual production cost in full capacity to produce 700 t/d is around 94 b ID.
  • Return 16%
  • It is possible to establish a float glass plant in Karbala and Muthana provinces.

C. Rehabilitation and development of engineering plants in the Ministry of Industry and Minerals such as Al Nassir and Al SimoodCo., IbnMajid, The Heavy engineering equipment Co. (Ministry of Oil) and The Mechanical industries in Eskandariyato cover the needs of the oil & gas, electricity and heavy industries sectors for tanks, heat exchangers, valves, pipes, pumps, poles and cranes and other products the rehabilitation and development of these factories require new production lines as well as supporting infrastructure.

D. Caustic Soda project/ Chlorine/ Samawa/ which includes the production of caustic soda, chlorine, Hypochlorite and Hydrochloric Acid.

  • Area: 50 dunam
  • Production capacity: 40-50 ton/per day
  • Cost : 40 Million Dollars.

E. Sodium Carbonate project/Samawa/ produces Sodium Carbonate and Bicarbonate.

  • Area: 100 dunam
  • Production capacity: 50000 t/y
  • Cost : 50-60 Million Dollars.

F. Sodium Sulfate projects/Samawa

  • Area: 25 dunam
  • Production capacity: 10 ton/per day
  • Cost : 20 Million Dollars.

The full 46-page document can be downloaded here.

(Source: NIC)

The World Bank has approved a US$400 million financial assistance package today to support the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of priority infrastructure to restore delivery of public services in areas of Iraq newly liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The package represents an additional financing to the Iraq Emergency Operation for Development Project (US$350 million), approved back in July 2015 and already underway in seven cities in Diyala and Salah Ad-Din governorates.

The additional financing will allow the geographic scale-up of existing project activities to additional cities liberated from ISIS in the Salah Ad-Din and Diyala governorates, as well as in the governorates of Anbar (including Ramadi), Kirkuk, Ninawah (including Mosul) and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG’s) governorate of Dohuk.

Similarly, implementation responsibilities will also expand to subnational governments in addition to the central government institutions.

Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director, said:

“The international community has expressed its commitment to support the urgent need for the Government-led reconstruction of Mosul and other recently liberated cities. The World Bank is committed to working with Iraqi authorities to ensure that this much-needed reconstruction takes place in a sustainable, inclusive and equitable manner to foster long term development and create opportunities for everyone.”

The current project activities span over five primary sectors: water and sanitation, electricity, health, transport and municipal services. The additional financing will continue to support these sectors, as well as address pressing education, agriculture/irrigation and urban service delivery needs of communities in liberated areas.

It will also support the restoration and preservation of key cultural heritage assets especially in the Old City of Mosul. But beyond the physical repair, emphasis will be given to improving the quality of education for boys and girls, and increasing the employment of women, youth as well as the poor in both urban and rural areas.

The additional financing will also support the Government of Iraq in attracting private sector participation in reconstruction efforts. To this effect, studies will be carried out to assess the feasibility of public private partnerships in the reconstruction, operation and maintenance of Mosul airport, which was severely damaged during the liberation of Mosul.

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Ramadi doctor Raed Samir is seriously considering moving out of the central Iraqi province of Anbar. But it’s not because of the security or the economy there. It’s because of the hassles he faces so often at a military checkpoint on the road going between Anbar and the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

The much-criticised checkpoint, called the Al Soqour checkpoint, which in English translates to the falcon’s checkpoint, often keeps cars waiting for up to six hours. Those who abandon their vehicles to get out and walk must hike several kilometres in the 50-degree Centigrade summer heat before they can catch a taxi and continue their journey into the capital.

The process of checks at the station, around 22 kilometres southeast of Fallujah, has been criticized as unnecessarily long and painful. “The humiliation I see there and the way people are deprived of their rights makes me confident that there are other agendas at work here,” Samir told NIQASH.

“They are trying to punish the province. They want to keep the province empty and they are pressuring well-qualified people, teachers, and doctors, so they don’t want to return to Anbar. In fact, a lot of local people won’t return to Anbar, they have moved elsewhere – to Baghdad or to Iraqi Kurdistan to escape this harassment. All the local people from Anbar are treated as suspects at this checkpoint. It makes us feel as though all of Anbar is a prison.”

In Mosul a battle is raging to take back the city from ISIL. As the fighting ends, essential work is ramping up to make sure that people who have been displaced by occupation and war can return to their homes as fast as possible – and stay there.

Already in the past year, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in close cooperation with the Iraqi government, the provincial authorities and the international coalition, has helped to re-boot social and economic recovery in 18 locations that have been liberated from ISIL, including Fallujah and Tikrit.

Our US$790 million Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization (FFIS) project is designed to support the early recovery effort in liberated towns through a three-month, high-impact programme to motivate millions of displaced Iraqis to return to their communities from camps and informal settlements across the country.

UNDP is making sure that people get services like water, clinics, schools, police stations, markets and government buildings. Families are receiving help to rebuild damaged homes, public infrastructure is being rehabilitated, and small businesses are being supported with cash grants to get started again.

These actions are essential to ensure those who were forced to flee are able to return and stay in the area, making them productive citizens once again. It is the first step towards post-conflict recovery and peace building.

While the battle for Mosul is continuing, UNDP is already working in the liberated Eastern section of the city, which is now free from ISIL. Many people have already returned home but water and electricity stations must be rebuilt and people need to be able to work and earn money. UNDP is providing this through cash for work projects, and alongside this is rehabilitation of schools and clinics, many of which were destroyed during the fighting.

The Annual Report 2016 presents progress with implementation of the Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) between 01 January and 31 December 2016.

During 2016, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) implemented a high impact, pragmatic approach to stabilization that improves citizen-government ties and revitalizes public trust in the Iraqi Government.

FFS quadrupled in size, growing from a small undertaking in a few cities to a large programme operating across 19 locations, including in the hard-hit cities of Ramadi and Fallujah in Anbar Governorate.

In September 2016, before the military campaign to retake Mosul started, UNDP began preparing for its liberation, liaising with authorities to identify early priorities and rushing to pre-position US$43 million in essential equipment to immediately jumpstart basic services, notably health, electricity, and water.

The Funding Facility continues to evolve, and now incorporates an Expanded Stabilization channel aimed at linking stabilized cities and districts to each other and generating large numbers of jobs.

Overall, UNDP’s FFS has contributed to laying the foundations for the return of over 1.39 million Iraqi men, women, and children since the start of the conflict.

Cities such as Ramadi, Fallujah, and Tikrit are once again flourishing as hubs of economic development. Nevertheless, over three million people remain internally displaced. Continued stabilization assistance will remain essential in creating the conditions for their return home.

Highlights:

  • Since the start of the conflict in 2014, over 1.39 million displaced Iraqis have returned to their homes to restart their lives
  • The Funding Facility has quadrupled in size and grown to incorporate an Expanded Stabilization channel
  • More than 350 projects, valuing over US$300 million, are restarting critical infrastructure, public services, and stimulating the local economy
  • Immediate Stabilization will require $100 million to cover a minimum of 10 additional towns in 2017. An additional $300 million will be needed for Expanded Stabilization

The full report is available here (16 MB)

(Source: UNDP in Iraq)

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Anbar Families Seeking Safety Sell Homes At Half Price, Fuelling Real Estate Boom

If there is one winner in the province of Anbar right now, it may well be those dealing in real estate. Families who have returned want to leave again, and are selling property at half price to be able to do so.

Ramadi local, Omar al-Hamdani, 48, says he never thought he would live anywhere else but his hometown. But things are becoming impossible.

“Working hours and transport is determined by the military leaders here, using security plans that often don’t appear to be very well organised,” he told NIQASH. “Sometimes one of the security teams at one of the checkpoints blocks a whole neighbourhood from going to work, using the excuse that there are security breaches that threaten the population,” he complains.

Security procedures in Ramadi are complex and time consuming and his family are only too well aware that there is still significant threat of extremist attacks. Additionally, al-Hamdani says, health care facilities are non-existent nor is schooling. On top of this, a business he had founded while out of Anbar was doing well and would support him in the semi-autonomous and far more secure northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

So he’s relocating. To move though, al-Hamdani has had to sell his house, a large property in a good central neighbourhood.

“In the past my house was valued at about IQD250 million [about US$208,000] but I sold it for IQD150 million. I know this is a low price but I didn’t hesitate,” al-Hamdani explains. “I wanted to stop paying anything toward the house – the payments were a terrible burden on us while we were displaced – and now I just want a safe, secure life for my family away from ideological conflicts or any threat of further displacement.”

While selling property at such a low price means a loss for the sellers, it is proving to be an opportunity for the buyers.

After more than 100 days of hard urban combat, Iraqi officials announced the liberation of eastern Mosul on Tuesday.

While clearance operations are ongoing, the Iraqi security forces control all areas inside the city east of the Tigris River, the east bank of the river around all five bridges crossing the Tigris River, Mosul University and the Ninevah Ruins.

During their offensive to liberate the city of more than one million residents, which was held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant for more than two years, the Iraqi and peshmerga security forces fought through an elaborate defense formed over the past two years to not only keep the Iraqi security forces out, but the residents of Mosul captive.

Through it all, the Iraqi security forces displayed their professionalism by placing the lives of citizens before their own and taking precautions to protect the citizens of Mosul while battling a brutal and fanatic enemy, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials said.

Meanwhile, they added, ISIL resorted to using children and other civilians as shields against coalition and Iraqi air and artillery strikes and used protected facilities such as hospitals, mosques and schools as weapons storage facilities and bases for its terrorist operations.

Air Strikes

Since Oct. 17, the coalition has conducted 558 air strikes in assistance of the Iraqi forces, using 10,115 munitions against ISIL targets. These munitions have destroyed at least 151 vehicle bombs, 361 buildings/facilities, 140 tunnels, 408 vehicles, 392 bunkers, 24 anti-air artillery systems, and 315 artillery/mortar systems.

During the offensive, the Iraqis fended off an average of five vehicle bombs a day, and endured daily mortar and sniper attacks, as well as surveillance and frequent attacks by ISIL unmanned aerial systems dropping grenades on friendly forces.

“This is a monumental achievement for not only the Iraqi security forces and sovereign government of Iraq, but all Iraqi people,” said Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the multi-national counter-ISIL coalition tasked with the military defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

“This would have been a difficult task for any army in the world,” Townsend said. “And to see how far the Iraqis have come since 2014, not only militarily, but in their ability to put their differences aside and focus on a common enemy, gives real hope to the people of Iraq that after years of fighting and instability, peace and security are attainable.”

“There is still a long way to go before ISIL is completely eliminated from Iraq, and the fight for western Mosul is likely to be even tougher than the eastern side,” he said. “But the [Iraqis] have proven they are both a professional and formidable fighting force and I have every confidence that ISIL’s days are numbered in Iraq.”

“The warriors of the coalition join me in congratulating our comrades in the Iraqi security forces on this achievement and wish them good luck and Allah’s blessings for the fight on the west side that lies ahead,” the general said.

The coalition trains, equips and enables the Iraqi and peshmerga security forces with advise and assist teams, intelligence, artillery and air strikes. Since the start of operations in October 2014, the coalition has trained more than 50,000 Iraqi fighters and launched more than 17,000 strikes on ISIL targets in support of its partners on the ground.

Over the past two years, with coalition training and equipment, the Iraqis rebuilt their military and liberated more than two million people and major population centers such as Ramadi, Fallujah, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Qayyarah and Sharqat. Now they are well on their way to the complete liberation of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, officials said.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Over the past few months the council in the central Iraqi province of Anbar have managed to create a number of new districts and sub-districts.

The last meeting making such decisions was held in December and most of the members of the provincial council voted in favour of establishing four new districts inside the province.

These are Karmah, east of the city of Fallujah, Baghdadi, almost 200 kilometres west of Baghdad, Amiriyat al-Samoud, southwest of Fallujah and Nahib, 280 kilometres southwest of the city of Ramadi. An additional five villages were changed into sub-districts within these new districts.

“Tribal and political influence were among the most important reasons behind the creation of these new districts,” says Daham al-Zubai, a tribal leader in Fallujah. “These were just ordinary villages before, with a population of no more than 3,000 people.”

“Most of the new districts are actually the bases for influential individuals who are trying to control nearby villages and to benefit from them, in terms of political gains,” he added.

It is perfectly legal for a provincial council to rezone areas within the province they run. But as yet, opinions on the new districts in Anbar remain divided. Some believe it to be a positive step in that the re-zoning has the potential to provide more government jobs and could improve the delivery of state services, like electricity and sanitation, to the new districts.

But others think the timing is wrong, given the ongoing security crisis in Iraq, as well as budgetary problems, which mean that even if jobs were created, it would be difficult to pay for them.

“We’ve done a number of studies on what can happen when larger areas are divided into smaller ones – Anbar was one of our case studies,” says Hassan Kashash, a lecturer in geography and administration at the University of Anbar. “The results were positive and suggested that smaller districts will provide better opportunities for management and for the optimized use of human and natural resources.”

In the 1970s, similar plans were enacted with new cities built and the corresponding expansion in residential compounds and employment was seen as positive. “But there is no point in planning new administrative bodies if there is no development plan enacted at the same time,” Kashash concluded.