$238m Real-Estate Development in Baghdad

CNN reports that work will soon begin on one of the biggest real-estate projects in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, which some say is a sign things are looking up for the country's economy.

Iraqi-Jordanian real estate company Amwaj International is behind the ambitious Baghdad development, called Baghdad Gates.

The scheme will cost $238 million and will include 3,500 residential apartments, a five-star hotel, an office tower and an upscale shopping mall. Work is due to begin in a couple of months and could be completed in four years.

Namir el Akabi, CEO of Amwaj parent company Almco, told CNN, "We are targeting the educated, the doctors, the professors, the lawyers. We are targeting the middle class really."

He said Iraq has had no major construction developments for the last 30 to 40 years, leaving it with a chronic housing shortage. He added that as Iraq's security situation improves and refugees are returning home, the demand for housing is increasing.

"In Baghdad, and in Iraq generally, families are living with their father and mother in the same house, even after they get married," Akabi said.

"There is no space available and prices are very high. There is a major shortage and no major development."

That shortage, coupled with an increasing standard of living, makes Iraq's real estate a growth area, according to Akabi. And he's not the only one who thinks so -- in 2008 UAE real-estate company Al-Maabar announced plans for a $10-billion residential and commercial development in Baghdad.

What's more, Akabi is confident the country's oil resources will soon fuel a powerhouse economy.

"To be honest, I expect Iraq to overtake the Gulf in seven years, because international oil companies are committed by contract to make oil production in Iraq reach 12 billion barrels a day within seven years," he said.

"Production today is under two million barrels, so our budget will be six times what it is today. Today it's $60 billion, so you're talking about $360 billion income for the Iraqi government per year."

He told CNN, "I believe everything will grow proportionally upward once major investors come to Iraq. it will help the local market a lot and it will move the economy. It will trickle all the way down."

[The full version of this article is available on the CNN website]

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