An excellent article about Iraqi reconstruction in the latest Newsweek. While there are some positive achievements the overall picture looks pretty grim with plenty of inefficiency, cronyism and corruption.
Some choice quotes:
“Numerous allegations of overspending, favoritism and corruption have surfaced. Halliburton, a major defense contractor once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, has been accused of gouging prices on imported fuel—charging $1.59 a gallon while the Iraqis “get up to speed,” when the Iraqi national oil company says it can now buy it at no more than 98 cents a gallon. (The difference is about $300 million.) Cronies of Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi, NEWSWEEK has learned, were recently awarded a large chunk of a major contract for mobile telecommunications networks.”
“The Bush administration’s favorite statistic from Iraq is the 1,595 schools it has just finished rehabilitating. This is, after all, the human face of occupation—freshly painted walls, American know-how and generosity, all wrapped up in smiling, adorable faces. And though that number is still less than a fifth of Iraq’s 10,000 schools, it seems like amazingly fast work. The problem: many of the “rehabilitated” schools don’t look ready for the morning bell. NEWSWEEK visited five schools in Baghdad’s Camp Sara neighborhood, all of which were among those listed as rebuilt, all by different Iraqi contractors working for Bechtel. None had enough textbooks, desks or blackboards. Most had refuse everywhere, nonfunctioning toilets and desks made for two kids that were accommodating four.”
“Tamara Dagestani is an Iraqi dissident who has become as fierce a critic of the Americans as she once was of Saddam. Like many Iraqis, she’s angry at what she sees as American arrogance and cultural insensitivity. What really raises Dagestani’s hackles, though, is the lack of jobs for Iraqi workers, especially skilled ones. Despite L. Paul Bremer’s new push to get contractors to hire Iraqis—”We realized that if they’re not working for us, they’re shooting at us,” one administration official said—the Iraqi Governing Council estimates unemployment is still as high as 75 percent.”
The last quote about the reconstruction not providing suffiicent jobs seems especially serious because as noted it feeds directly into the security situation. If the estimate of 75% unemployment is accurate that’s seriously bad news.