Basra – Model of Reconstruction or Too Good to be True?

By Marko Lukic.

In October of 2010, Move One reported on the economic recovery of Basra as the first wave of post-war energy exploration companies set up operations and introduced a level of prosperity and stability that has not been seen in years. Since then the city has become a focal point for foreign investment in southern Iraq, but progress has brought its own set of problems.

In the wake of the 2003 war in Iraq, Basra was the scene of some of the most intense fighting and prolonged civil unrest in the entire country. A city of three million people was left without even the most basic services or essential infrastructure. Since then, the streets that were by turns dangerous and deserted are now filled with locals and expats from around the world, engaged in energetic commerce and recreation. As the date for the US military withdrawal grows closer, developers are arriving in increasing numbers seeking contracts for the reconstruction projects that will be turned over to civilian companies.

In May 2011, the Basra Investment Commission announced the latest round of investment licenses to be awarded to local and international companies, valued at around $174 million. To date, the awarded licenses for reconstruction projects total an estimated $874 million, which is still less than a third of what the government is expected to spend on the restoration of Basra’s housing, schools, power supplies, services and roads over the next two years.

Whilst the US withdrawal has caused concerns about security, Basra has thrived on the steady transition from government control to private enterprise. The return of the international energy companies has caused enormous influxes of capital into every niche of the economy, from the housing market to retail and transportation.

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