Iraq $60bn plan draws interest

02 May 2011

Foreign companies lured by potential of Iraqi National Aviation Plan, but Baghdad must ensure transparent regulations to garner true international support for the scheme

A 1-million-strong workforce may seem excessive for an airport development project, but this is the number that will be needed to execute all of the projects planned for Baghdad International airport.

The government’s masterplan does not just involve rehabilitating the existing airport. The Iraqi National Aviation Plan will require more than $60bn-worth of investment into the sector and will involve building new airports, upgrading existing airports, rehabilitating the related infrastructure and importing international expertise and know-how.

In Baghdad, $51bn, the majority of the total budget, will be spent on Baghdad International airport. This is 50 per cent more than the $33bn earmarked to develop Dubai World Central, which will be the biggest airport and aviation centre in the world when it is complete.

Iraq argues that it needs so much investment because it is building its aviation infrastructure from scratch and with freight and logistics, is effectively developing a new industry.

To pay for all the planned projects, Iraq will need to attract about $43bn of private-sector financing. While this is a huge amount of money, the Iraqi Airports Expansion conference held in April in Irbil proved two things that should make the task of securing funding easier.

First, the federal government has demonstrated it is finally serious about aviation, as it will play a vital part in the economy going forward and support business travel and tourism. Secondly, several international firms are already showing significant interest in participating in its development.

With companies increasingly signalling their interest in the potential that Iraq has to offer, the government will need to move swiftly to ensure it draws up transparent laws and regulations that international investors need. If they can do that, there should be plenty of support for Iraq’s aviation blueprint.

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