Back to rebuilding

19 December 2003
Saddam Hussein's capture is acknowledged by those closely involved in Iraq's reconstruction as a positive step. Yet, while the man who is being held directly accountable for the shattered state of the country's economy awaits trial, it may be some time before any tangible effects on the reconstruction process are visible.

'His capture is excellent news and should help to further accelerate the pace of reconstruction,' says Andy Bearpark, Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) director of operations. 'However, a single event like this will not immediately lead to a significant improvement in security and we could even see a backlash in the coming weeks, but in the long term this is very encouraging for the future.'

Security and the rising number of attacks on those involved in reconstruction continue to be a concern. 'We don't yet know what impact his capture will have,' says Lewis Lucke, US Agency for International Development (USAID), Iraq mission director. 'But I hope it helps to create a more stable and secure environment within which to work. Anything that can contribute to improving the security situation is a good thing for all the actors involved in the reconstruction process.'

Lucke's cautious optimism is shared by other key decision makers. 'The biggest impact will be in the long term,' says Cliff Mumm, Iraq infrastructure programme director for the US' Bechtel. 'It is a line of demarcation and should start to turn the tide on what has been happening. People on the streets in Baghdad are very joyful. However, the rate of progress with reconstruction will continue to be affected by security which won't change immediately because of this. The work we have is still going ahead under the same schedule and we are now heavily focused on restoring power to 6,000 MW and rebuilding the water network.'

After enduring more than 30 years of despotic rule, Iraqi business leaders are looking forward to better times. 'The era of Saddam is over and hopefully a new face will now appear to lead the Iraqi people,' says Jabar al-Lueibi, South Oil Company director general. 'I want to see the return of stability, law and order but my main concern is oil. Production capacity has reached 1.9 million barrels a day of oil and this is a tremendous achievement considering what we have been through.'

While restoring oil output quickly can provide an immediate panacea for the country's moribund economy, significant foreign investment is required in the medium to long term. And with Saddam behind bars, Iraq could become a more viable prospect for investors. 'Closing the last chapter on Saddam's regime will help to attract the foreign direct investment we need,' says Mouayad Hassan, chairman of the Iraqi Business Council. 'Many Iraqis living outside Iraq will also now be encouraged to return to their country. Once the security situation improves there will be a noticeable improvement in the business climate.'

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