Without doubt the security situation has improved significantly since I was last in Iraq, and made great strides in the south, where the first time I worked in Basra in 2007 we were never allowed into the city of Basra – now we are staying in a modern hotel with a room overlooking the Shatt al-Arab, from which I can see a flower-show in full swing on the other side. We are using a regular 4-wheel-drive vehicle with a local driver and move around the town with ease.
This meshes with the Minister of Construction's views on security companies who are, he believes, right in the middle of trying to justify their existence and stretch out a bad situation by making Iraq sound more dangerous than it is, and keep their fees and security staff employed. Insurance companies are just as bad, and both are slowing development by adding significant costs onto any project.
As Minister Mohammed Sahib al-Darraji told me, “security is necessary in Iraq but not at the levels that the security companies and insurance industry claim; it makes working here very expensive and hinders development greatly”.