15 February, 2018
WAR-BATTERED Iraq today sought to attract worldwide investors to rebuild the country after defeating the Islamic State group, offering hundreds of projects and touting extensive legal guarantees.
The conference, which took place in Kuwait, involved donors and investors discussing efforts to rebuild Iraq's economy and infrastructure following the defeat of ISIS jihadists who conquered almost a third of the country.
The Kuwait conference's second day will be devoted to the private sector's role in rebuilding Iraq, with more than 2,000 companies and businessmen due to attend, according to the Gulf country.
About $22 billion is required in the short term and another $66 billion in the medium term, the director-general of the country's planning ministry, Qusay Adulfattah, told the conference, which lasts until Wednesday.
Officials said housing was an urgent priority - the war damaged some 138,000 housing units, of which half had been completely destroyed.
Iraq has introduced a raft of measures in a bid to provide an investment-friendly environment, including administrative and financial reforms, he said.
The projects include rebuilding destroyed facilities such as Mosul airport and new investments to diversify the economy away from oil sales, by developing transport, agriculture and industries based on the nation's energy wealth, including petrochemicals and oil refining.
"Add to that the total damages in the security sector, which amounted to $14bn and the value of losses on bank assets, about $10bn", he said.
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United States officials have already said there will be no new pledges of assistance for Iraq's reconstruction drive, after Washington pumped some $60 billion into rebuilding the country following the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
"The destruction is widespread, despite the resources Iraq has, we need the global community to help us rebuild and to reinvest", said Mr Mehdi Al Alaq, the Secretary General of Iraq's Council of Ministers.
The United Nations has warned that the failure of the global community and major powers in the West to help Iraq could lead to renewed instability.
Iraq hopes to raise billions of dollars in pledges at the three-day meeting, as the country reels from the rise of IS and punishing fightback against the jihadist group.
Non-governmental organizations pledged $330 million in humanitarian aid at a parallel NGO conference, Kuwait's state news agency KUNA reported.
This funding also helps internally displaced people in Iraq return home safely and supports the clearance of explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices in areas newly liberated from Daesh, states the release.
Iraqi forces are backed by an global coalition led by the U.S., which pounds militant strongholds from the air. Iraq has been plagued by violence over the past 15 years.
Iraq reopened to foreign investment after the 2003 USA invasion, but the vast majority of the billions of dollars invested went to increasing its oil and natural gas production.