When the US in December announced the 63 countries eligible for primary contracts in the reconstruction effort in Iraq, the outcry could be heard in Paris, Moscow, Berlin and other capitals that didn't support the US-led invasion and weren't allowed to compete for the lucrative deals.
But since then, the tide has turned, and some companies may very well be glad they weren't tempted to do business in Iraq. With the security situation continuing to be unstable, insurance premiums have skyrocketed and significantly cut into profits.
Almost 40 employees of US-based Halliburton have been killed in Iraq. Three employees of General Electric died recently when a car bomb exploded. In March, four Americans employed by Blackwater USA were killed in an ambush in Fallujah and dragged through the streets amid the cheers of dozens of bystanders.
On average, there are some 40 attacks on civilians and soldiers every day in Iraq, three times as many as in the beginning of the year.
The US Congress last autumn approved US$18.6 billion for the reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, but attacks and bureaucratic hurdles mean that the distribution of the money is tricky. Contracts dished out up to the beginning of June only accounted for US$3.7 billion of that money.
By the time the US hands over sovereignty to the Iraqis on June 30, that sum is expected to rise to US$10 billion.
More than 95 percent of the contracts have gone to US firms, according to a list from the Coalition Provisional Authority, while a small number of subcontracts were awarded to companies in Britain, Australia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
The firms that have profited the most from contracts include California-based construction company Bechtel, oil services firm Halliburton, which was once run by US Vice President Dick Cheney, Halliburton subsidiary Kellog Brown and Root, and engineering firms Fluor and Parsons.
Once Iraq's transitional government takes over tomorrow, and can award its own reconstruction contracts financed with oil revenues, foreign companies may get a bigger share. But some already have said "No" to what could be huge boosts to their bottom lines.
The safety of employees takes highest priority, said Gillian McCormack, a spokeswoman for Canadian construction firm SNC-Lavalin.
Russian electronics firm InterEnergoServis pulled out of Iraq after three of its employees were killed last month. A South Korean firm also quit Iraq after losing two employees in an attack.
For US firms, doing business in Iraq has also become something of a nightmare.
While there is no shortage of volunteers, employers have to lure them with high salaries. A truck driver who makes US$30,000 a year in the US often makes three times the sum in Iraq.
Rising insurance premiums add to the cost, with some experts estimating that they will account for 30 percent of personnel costs, up from 10 percent. Many US firms have started to hire more and more Iraqis rather than foreigners to keep expenses low.
EFFICIENCY: The rules for Philippine arrivals were revised after 17.6% of arrivals with symptoms tested positive, compared with 0.7% of those with no symptoms Starting today, Chinese spouses who hold a reunion permit can apply to enter Taiwan and travelers without symptoms from the Philippines do not need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, but are to be tested after a 14-day quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that from today, Chinese who are married to a Taiwanese citizen and hold a reunion permit can apply to the National Immigration Agency for entry into Taiwan. Chinese who are married to a foreign national and hold an accompanied reunion permit
CONSOLIDATION? Taiwan Thinktank deputy executive-general Doong Sy-chi said Beijing’s intimidation tactics are further alienating those who identify as Chinese Only 2 percent of respondents to a poll on constitutional amendments and national identity identified as Chinese, while 62.6 percent identified as Taiwanese, the Taiwan Thinktank said yesterday. Legislators have proposed amendments to the Additional Articles of the Constitution (憲法增修條文), which would change the definition of the nation’s territory, remove the Taiwan Provincial Government as an entity, prioritize the use of “Taiwan” for national groups at international events, and remove restrictions on defining the national emblem, national flag and national anthem. The poll showed that 80.5 percent of respondents agreed that the nation should participate as “Taiwan” at events organized by world
MISTAKE: The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy is not a UN body, and the government is committed to protecting the nation’s name, Joseph Wu said The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday condemned the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy for listing Taiwanese cities as belonging to China on its Web site, and asked that it correct the error. The organization was inaugurated in Brussels in 2016 as a global coalition of mayors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Six Taiwanese cities at the time joined the coalition as cities in “Taiwan,” the ministry said. However, officials from the Kaohsiung City Government — one of the organization’s members — last week noticed that the city was now listed on the organization’s Web site as a
BALANCED DEVELOPMENT: TSMC chairman Mark Liu said the firm is committed to local investment: a third in the north, a third in the center, a third in the south Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world’s biggest contract chipmaker, yesterday said that, based on its strategy of balancing capacity, it plans to make northern Taiwan its manufacturing hub for advanced technologies that go beyond 2 nanometers. “As the company is committed to investing in Taiwan, we try to deploy one-third [of our total production capacity] in the north and have one-third each in the center and south” of the nation, TSMC chairman Mark Liu (劉德音) told reporters on the sidelines of Semicon Taiwan’s Master Forum in Taipei. TSMC last year reached its goal of deploying capacity equally across those parts