Sun, Jul 04, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Despite numerous promises of aid, Iraqis wait for cash

REUTERS , WASHINGTON

Little of the money US President George W. Bush pledged for Iraq's reconstruction has actually been paid out, according to a White House report released on Friday.

Of the more than US$20.8 billion appropriated by Congress for reconstruction projects, actual outlays as of last month totaled just US$1.8 billion, although administration officials say more than half the total is now in the pipeline to be spent.

The report blames the slow pace of reconstruction on "security problems," which escalated ahead of last month's transfer of limited authority to an interim Iraqi government.

The electricity sector was hard hit. Disruptions due to attacks and threats against drivers and vehicles "have slowed the delivery of construction materials and supplies," the report said.

Many firms working in the electric power sector have withdrawn staff from Iraq or severely limited their movement beyond secure facilities.

"As a result, the June 2004 goal of producing 6,000 megawatts has been delayed," the report said. It estimated the current level of peak generating capacity at about 4,600 megawatts.

Security problems and cost overruns have also delayed several oil sector construction projects, including repairs to natural gas plants that were heavily looted last year, according to the report.

It acknowledged limited progress training Iraqi prison guards because of the poor security situation.

Bush's plans to replace the troubled Abu Ghraib prison with a new facility also ran into unexpected trouble -- from poor soil quality -- while work on a major landfill project in Baghdad was temporarily stalled by unexploded ordnance.

Congress initially appropriated US$2.5 billion for reconstruction work in Iraq in April last year, of which US$1.4 billion has been disbursed.

Of the US$18.4 billion later appropriated by Congress, US$11.12 billion has been "apportioned," or set aside for use. Of that, US$5.3 billion has been "obligated," or bound under a binding legal agreement for specific purposes.

While that represents a doubling of US financial "obligations" since April, the report acknowledged: "Actual disbursement of funds has lagged behind obligations. As of June, 22, 2004, implementing agencies have disbursed US$365.5 million."

A disbursement is an actual payment for goods and services received, or when the check goes out the door.

The report also tracked the flow of international aid to Iraq. While over 20 countries have disbursed reconstruction assistance totaling over US$1.1 billion as of June, that is only a fraction of the US$13 billion they have pledged to provide by 2007.

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