By Mustafa al-Kadhimi forAl-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
None of Iraq’s political factions —or officials and others with political, economic or security influence — will truly answer the question: “Have you erred?”
Sometimes their response is generalized and clichéd, such as: “Perfection is left to God alone.” This in itself is pure prevarication, because it points to a lack of desire to admit wrong, and precludes any readiness to apologize for mistakes.
Since 2003, Iraq has been on a path strewn with mistakes that have reduced its forward momentum to a crawl filled with pitfalls. Yet, not one official has ever come close to apologizing for errors committed, to a point where the trend has become akin to an institutionalized political tradition.
This article was motivated by the abject failure of Baghdad’s authorities to protect the city from being flooded after only 48 hours of rainfall. Their ready excuse is that the design of the sewer system is unable to cope with rainfall amounts that exceed those prevalent 40 years ago!
Such an example is worthy of study. It is an indicative example of utter failure that reflects a denial of responsibility by city officials who, instead, consign its causes to mistakes committed by past administrations.
Electric power generation has increased in Iraq during the past few months, but transmission grids that transport electricity to homes were built 30 years ago: another ready excuse for the continued daily power outages.
The Iraqi government signs shady deals worth millions of dollars to buy ineffective explosive-detection devices, as well as defective weapon systems and equipment lacking the necessary complementary technologies. In all that, the justification is that “Iraq is passing through exceptional circumstances, and has fallen prey to internal as well as external conspiracies! Furthermore, low-level government employees and politicians have been tried for corruption as a result of those deals.”
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG) Mr. Nickolay Mladenov and the UN family in Iraq have been closely following with Iraqi officials the assistance that the United Nations can provide to the Government, more particularly the Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM), in its efforts in assisting the communities affected by the recent floods caused by heavy rains.
At an emergency meeting yesterday between representatives of the MoDM and the United Nations Humanitarian Country Team, it was announced that, while an overall joint assessment of needs is ongoing, the United Nations agencies are providing emergency assistance to the most affected populations, and are ready to support affected populations as required.
The UN Iraq assistance includes the distribution of Non-Food Items (NFIs) packages by the UN Refugee Agency (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR) to 600 families in several affected areas in Najaf, Kerbala, Anbar, Babylon and Baghdad; as well as pumping out water in flooded internally displaced settlements in Baghdad, through its implementing partners.
The UNHCR NFIs packages contain plastic sheets, mattresses, blankets, jerry cans, stoves, and kitchen and hygienic sets.
The United Nations agencies including the World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are liaising and coordinating with the MoDM to identify the support needed towards ensuring a coordinated response to those in need.
In the framework of their significant efforts towards supporting the Iraqi government in overcoming the devastating impact of water shortage, UNESCO and the European Union (EU) launched the phase II of the “Advanced Survey of Hydrogeological Resources in Iraq” (ASHRI-2), a pioneering initiative that aims to improve national capacities in the exploration and integrated management of groundwater resources, and enhance both, efficiency and effectiveness of public planning and policy making in the National Water Sector.
After several months of technical and operation consultations, UNESCO and EU representatives met with Iraqi officials in Baghdad today, October 28 2013, to announce the official launch of the diversified activities which will be implemented in the framework of this new programme.
The programme lasting for the coming 30 months, will be undertaken by UNESCO Iraq Office with the main collaboration of the Ministry of Water Resources in Baghdad, the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources in the Kurdistan Regional Government, in addition to other relevant line-ministries, namely the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Ministry of Planning.
“We are proud that we did not stop at Phase I of this project, and that we proceed towards establishing a real, solid, and scientific base for a comprehensive management system for underwater resources in Iraq”, said Director General of the state bureau for ground water at the Ministry of Water Resources Mr. Dhafer Abdullah Hussain.
“All this would not have been possible without the stakeholders’ realistic understanding of the magnitude of the problems and challenges in this project”, he added as he praised the positive involvement of the EU and UNESCO in implementing this key initiative.
BGR Energy Systems has signed a contract with the Ministry of Electricity for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of four 125-MW gas-fueled power project at Nasiriya.
The Economic Times reports that the contract is valued at $246 million and includes the scope of engineering, procurement and construction services of BOP, civil works and erection, testing and commissioning of gas turbine-generator sets supplied by General Electric, as well as, operation and maintenance of power project for six months.
BGR Energy Systems Limited is listed at the Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange. The Company was originally incorporated in 1985, as a joint venture between GEA Energietechnik GmbH, Germany and B. G. Raghupathy.
The United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability conducted a workshop in Baghdad, September 22-26, on electricity operations and maintenance for 20 engineers from the Ministry of Electricity who work at power plants across Iraq.
The five-day workshop provided the Iraqi participants with tools and methods to enhance efficiency and safety in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity.
This workshop was the final training session of the Department of State-funded Iraqi Energy Reliability, Survivability, and Resiliency Program. The program supports the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA), with the specific goal of facilitating the Government of Iraq’s capabilities to deliver essential services to its citizens.
In its entirety, the Iraqi Energy Reliability, Survivability, and Resiliency Program trained 90 Iraqi engineers, provided the Government of Iraq with the tools to identify vulnerabilities within the electricity sector, and proposed international industry best practices to address those vulnerabilities.
The U.S. Department of Energy provided trainers from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in Richland, Washington who are experts in turbine theory, electricity sector operations, and maintenance.
By Walid Khadduri forAl-Monitor, translated from Al-Hayat. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
On Sept. 14, 2013, the Iraqi parliament’s Oil and Energy Committee published a report drafted by the advisory board of the Prime Minister’s Office, which indicated that Iraq is losing around $40 billion annually due to the lingering power outage crisis.
The report confirmed that the continuous power outages caused serious damage to petrochemical plants and private plants. It is worth mentioning that for years now power outages in Iraq have shot up from 15 to 20 hours per day throughout the year, with the exception of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, where the private sector participates in electricity generation and distribution.
It is true that power outages have become a part of daily life for Iraqi citizens, but their far-reaching implications go beyond significant material losses. The continuous blackout has led to the use of generators at homes and in neighborhoods, causing severe environmental pollution. Moreover, constant and sudden outages damage household electrical appliances such as refrigerators, computers and televisions.
These losses may have been borne by the citizen and not the state as a whole, yet they are significant cumulatively losses for the country, both at the moral and material levels. Besides pollution, Iraqis pay hundreds of dollars for generators and fuel, in addition to the state electricity bills.
Why this dire situation in the electricity sector in Iraq and other Arab countries? Why is this happening at this particular stage and not in the first stages of use of electricity in the Middle East, that is, decades ago, after World War II? Does Iraq — and other countries witnessing the same tragic experience — lack the necessary funds for the construction of power plants? Of course not. The main reason lies in the dissemination of a culture of corruption and lack of accountability, which spread to senior officials in the Iraqi state.
Iraq’s Minister for Municipalities and Public Works has told Reuters that the country is to spend $1.5 billion annually for two to three years on 50 water and sewerage projects, which will be open to work by foreign contractors.
“We will ask companies to bid for them in 2014 … By the end of 2013, these projects will have passed the planning phase and will be needing implementation.“
Mr Adil Mhoder [Adil Muhudir Radi al-Maliki] added that the government was taking steps to encourage foreign contractors to set up in Iraq, including facilitating the issuing of visas to businessmen and reducing bureaucracy, including speeding up the process of awarding contracts.
The government has already authorised heads of diplomatic missions to issue visas for businessmen and investors within 48 hours, he said. It is also offering letters of credit that could be used by contractors who need to import equipment and other supplies.
(Picture: Nasiriyah Water Treatment Plant. Credit: USACE)