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US Lawmakers Say Iraq Needs to Spend More on Reconstruction


There is growing frustration in Washington that Iraq is not spending more of its own money to stabilize and rebuild the country. High oil prices have earned Baghdad billions of dollars, and some in the U.S. Congress say Iraq should be using more of that money to pay for its own reconstruction. VOA's Bill Rodgers reports.

Car bombs continue to take their toll on Iraqis in Baghdad and elsewhere - though the level of violence is down significantly from a year ago.

Yet as Iraqis cope with the violence, Iraq's vast oil holdings are bringing in enough money so the government is flush with cash.

Oil revenues will produce a budget surplus for Iraq estimated at up to $50 billion this year alone. But little of that money is being spent on reconstruction says Joseph Christoff of the US Government Accountability Office.

"They can pay salaries, they can buy certain operating goods and services but when it comes to the actual investment side, to reconstruct bridges, roads, electricity and water facilities, they fall short," Christoff said.

Since 2003, the United States has spent about $23 billion dollars - compared to $4 billion by Iraq - in rebuilding the country's dilapidated electrical power plants and other infrastructure.

This angers some Congressmen, including Democrat James McGovern.

"Why would the Iraqi government want to change this sweet deal that they have with the US government?" asked McGovern. "We are a cheap date in this whole matter. I mean we are giving and giving and giving and sacrificing and sacrificing, and yet they have this incredible surplus."

The destruction from the long-running conflict, says Christoff, is one reason why Iraq has been slow to implement projects.

Also, because many Iraqi professionals and civil servants are refugees in other countries, Iraq lacks trained personnel to run rebuilding projects.

Iraqis themselves say their country still needs reconstruction aid - despite the budget surplus. Basim Jamil Anton heads a business federation, and he adds, "the budget surplus does not mean Iraq is not in need. It needs more than$200 billion to rehabilitate infrastructure."

But some US lawmakers are clearly impatient. They say Iraq is fully capable of shouldering more of the burden now that it has the money.

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