BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraq has approved an ambitious $37-billion programme to upgrade Iraq’s collapsing infrastructure, which has fallen victim to three decades of war and sanctions, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.
The cabinet’s plans, which must now be approved by parliament, are the latest in efforts by the government to placate protesters who have railed against poor public services and a lack of improvement in their daily lives, eight years on from the US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
“The total cost of the proposed development programme is estimated at $37 billion spread over various vital sectors,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.
The allocated funds, decided at a Monday evening cabinet meeting, will be spread over several years, he said.
The draft law to authorise the investment has been languishing for more than a year, with Maliki having initially proposed it before March 2010 election.
Opposition parties at the time objected to it, viewing it as a pre-election spending spree to lure voters.
Of the areas to receive investment, the biggest commitment is to transport infrastructure, with $10 billion in spending planned, with an additional $1.5 billion for highways.
Three separate allocations of $5 billion each were made for education, water and sewage, and agriculture. Another $3 billion was committed for health infrastructure, and a further $2 billion for higher education.
“I hope parliament will approve these infrastructure projects… to develop services, because without the agreement of parliament, we cannot fulfill our ambitions to build houses, services, electricity and health,” Maliki said at a news conference in Baghdad.
Much of Iraq’s infrastructure remains in a poor state, with little investment having been made since Saddam’s 1980-1988 war with Iran.
Shortly after that war, Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, which led to more than a decade of international sanctions, followed by the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted him.