Back in 1995, I remember one of my first jobs was working for a company that installed fiber-optic computer networks. Back then, the internet was fairly new, and the idea of high-speed networks was just taking off.
The company I worked for took contracts all over the country, networking banks, hospitals, and large office buildings. We had so much work, all over the country, because at the time there were only a handful of companies installing fiber networks.
On top of all that, two-thirds of our guys were taking contracts in Kuwait. This was just after the first Gulf War. Kuwait had been decimated by Iraq, and the rebuilding was going full-tilt. I remember picking up newspapers and scanning the help wanted section, and seeing pages of ads looking for workers to go to Kuwait and help contractors with the rebuilding.
In 2003 there was a lot of talk about a new mission to rebuild Iraq. The Madrid Conference on Reconstruction was held in October of 2003, and there a plan was outlined to rebuild the infrastructure, power grid, hospitals, schools, and public buildings. They established the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) to pay for the reconstruction, which consisted mainly of monies allocated from Iraqi oil production and multi-national aid.
There has been a lot of traction in these rebuilding efforts, and the contracts were awarded to big companies like Haliburton and Bechtel.
Today, much of the power grid has been restored, oil wells have been rebuilt and put back on line, and roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, and public buildings have been rebuilt and reopened.
Since the majority of fighting in Iraq has stopped, there has been a Baghdad Renaissance Plan proposed, which will consist of high-end homes for a half million people, commerce, banking, medical centers, broadcast stations, IT, exhibition space, and convention and cultural centers. There are also plans for high-rise development, and Baghdad’s first skyscraper, all built in Tahir Square, along the banks of the Tigris River.
Unfortunately, there is still a high rate of corruption with the funds, attacks on workers, and high rates of insurance claims among the workers. Political and social instability in the region are making these ventures risky, and security concerns are making it cost-prohibitive.
However, as the region stabilizes, and these projects begin to take foot, demand will increase, and there will be room for contractors from the US to win some of the bids. The proposed projects could offer a very high rate of return on the investment.
It really would be great to see American contractors win these jobs, and put US laborers back to work, while bringing millions of dollars back home. Instead of reading about the high-unemployment rate, especially for the construction industry workers, I would love to flip to the employment section and see pages of ads for workers and contractors to go to Iraq and help the nation rebuild.
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