The run-up to an election in any country is a time when politicians make exorbitant claims about their record in office and extravagant promises for the years to come.

Voters understand this. It is their right – in most democracies at least – to choose which promises to believe and which to disregard. That choice should be a simple one for Iraqi voters as the country gears up for national elections in January.

Iraqi politicians have returned to work reinvigorated after Ramadan, because the value of infrastructure projects being pledged for the next term of parliament is staggering. In September, a host of ministries began preparing to sign contracts worth many billions of dollars.

This largesse would be impressive if Baghdad had anything approaching the money its political masters are now promising to spend.

The Baghdad metro is the latest project to get the election treatment. Sabir al-Issawi, Baghdad’s mayor, has announced that seven international companies have been prequalified and given six months to bid for the contract to build the project. This comes as news to the foreign companies that have been tracking the project, but the metro is becoming a familiar calling card for Al-Issawi.

It has not escaped observers’ notice that the mayor pulled the metro out of the hat roughly a year ago, weeks before provincial elections. His office promised that money would be set aside for a feasibility study into the $3bn project. That study has yet to get under way and no consultant has been appointed.

When the empty promises fall away next year, Iraq will remain a country in dire need of investment. The next government will have to decide how best to apportion the country’s scant resources. It is safe to assume that a metro system in a still-divided capital will not feature high on the list.

 “When the empty promises fall away next year, Iraq will remain a country in dire need of investment”