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Iraq banks on private sector for post-IS reconstruction

AFP  |  Baghdad 

Months after declaring victory over jihadists, war-battered hopes to attract billions of dollars from private investors as well as donors to fund its reconstruction.

is looking to drum up funds at a reconstruction conference in neighbouring from February 12 to 14 after announcing the defeat of the Islamic State group at the end of last year.

The country is still reeling from the rise of IS and the punishing fightback it took to crush the jihadists, with swathes of its territory in ruins and millions of people displaced.

Authorities in the resource-rich nation say there has been a heavy toll on oil, and manufacturing infrastructure, as well as such as water and sanitation.

needs to raise USD 100 billion to rebuild, Prime Minister has said, after the fight against IS and decades of sanctions and war.

"It's a huge amount of money. We know we cannot provide it through our own budget," he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, last month.

"That's why we now resorted to investment," he said.

sits on some of the world's largest crude reserves, which puts at 153 billion barrels, but the war against IS and a slump in world prices have diminished its revenues.

The conference's second day will be devoted to the private sector's role in rebuilding Iraq, with more than 2,000 companies and due to attend, according to the Gulf country.

International organisations are to speak on the first day, while attending donor countries are expected to make announcements on the third.

The has said that rather than "direct contributions", has "focused on the private sector. It has teamed up with the to organise a delegation of over 150 American companies to travel to Kuwait" for the conference.

Iraq -- the second largest within OPEC after -- has already called for help from investors worldwide, even as it seeks to ramp up output from its largely untapped reserves.

is setting aside its past differences with Iraq to host the summit.

In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait after accusing its neighbour of "stealing" Iraqi from a field straddling the border.

That sparked the first Gulf War, which ended after a US- led coalition ousted Iraqi forces from the emirate.

have since weathered international sanctions, a US-led invasion in 2003 and the battle against IS.

Today, some 2.6 million people remain displaced across the country, the has said.

shows some 26,000 houses are destroyed or seriously damaged, including more than 17,000 in the jihadists' former bastion of

"There is huge destruction and a huge need to mobilise support," said Erfan Ali, Iraq of the UN Human Settlements Programme.

Ali said there are big hopes the private sector will play a major role in rebuilding, offering "innovative solutions" to tackle the country's problems.

Attracting investors will be no easy task in a country ranked as the world's tenth most corrupt in Transparency International's 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index.

But Ali said companies and will have access to a "reconstruction data platform to ensure accountability and transparency".

Peter Hawkins, for the UN children's fund in Iraq, says reconstruction will be a mammoth task -- not just in Mosul, retaken from IS last July after several months of fighting, but also elsewhere.

Though much of the battle against IS took place in northern Iraq, its southern provinces have also suffered from government budget cuts during the conflict.

Overstretched schools in the south teach children in two or three shifts, the UNICEF said.

Iraq -- where nearly a quarter of the population survive on less than USD 2 a day -- needs "major investment in health, education, social warfare" and water resources, he said.

Above all, educating young is a chief concern, Hawkins said.

"If we do not start to invest in children's education today, this generation will be lost and will not be able to contribute to the economy and the security of Iraq when they grow up.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, February 10 2018. 09:40 IST