Iraq has seen more than its fair share of false dawns since the US-led invasion in 2003, but sentiment has rarely been more positive in the country than it is now.
Following the ostensibly fair elections that have boosted Iraq’s democratic credentials, Baghdad can push ahead with its plan to invest some $150bn in infrastructure development by 2025. The investment programme has its heart in the right place, but can Baghdad avoid the pitfalls of other post-war countries around the world?
The government recognises housing as a top priority, followed by food supply for a population that is poised to rise to 40 million by 2025. It has prioritised $18bn in agriculture projects to take advantage of what is some of the most fertile soil in the region.
Seeking foreign investors to help foot the bill for the projects and contractors to help build them, the government’s wish list includes a transportation network to rival the Suez Canal, 31 new healthcare facilities, a major overhaul of its antiquated telecommunications system and 12 new power plants.
A lesser, but no less important priority is the development of 113 hotels and sports clubs in and around Baghdad, and the promotion of cultural tourism at historic sites including Babylon and Ur.
If Iraq’s programme to rebuild the country’s infrastructure in 15 years seems ambitious, that is because it is. The challenges remain enormous.
Before these projects can move forward, Baghdad needs to do more to improve the security situation and prove it can stand on its own two feet financially after years of national budgets being propped up by international aid.
The government also needs to ensure that investors do not arrive in the country to be met with the curse of other developing countries – corruption, fraud, and a lack of professionalism.