Iraq rebuilding cost now put at $55 billion

Posted in Iraq | 04-Oct-03 | Author: Steven Weisman| Source: The New York Times

UN and World Bank add $36 billion to a separate $19 billion U.S. estimate

WASHINGTON - A team of economic specialists led by the World Bank and the United Nations has determined that Iraq needs $36 billion for reconstruction over the next four years. This would be in addition to a separate assessment by the U.S.-led occupation of $19 billion for a different set of needs in Iraq over the same period, diplomats and economists said.

The latest calculation brings to $55 billion the amount that experts say Iraq needs for rebuilding - including health care, infrastructure and agriculture - and training security personnel, the officials said on Wednesday. Both assessments - which are separate from President George W. Bush's current request before Congress of $20 billion in nonmilitary aid - were prepared before a donors' conference scheduled for Oct. 23-24 in Madrid. Secretary of State Colin Powell and other top U.S. officials are expected to attend.

These larger numbers have begun to circulate even as American officials admit they are having trouble getting promises for much more than $1 billion at Madrid. But the Bush administration is seeking approval of a UN Security Council resolution, a new draft of which it circulated Wednesday, that it hopes will encourage more donations.

Many in Congress, meanwhile, are balking at the administration's request for $20 billion in nonmilitary aid, $5 billion of it for training security personnel, saying that they are not clear on what exactly is needed now or in the next few years. Lawmakers complained on Wednesday that they had been given too sparse an accounting of what happened to the $79 billion that Congress approved for Iraq and Afghanistan last April.

As the debate opened in the Senate on Wednesday on the administration's current $87 billion spending request for the two countries, senators said they expected dozens of amendments that would add new reporting requirements and audits.

While Congress began to grapple with the administration over its spending request, American, European, Japanese and Arab envoys met in Madrid on Wednesday to make their own assessment of Iraq's needs. This separate assessment was confirmed by officials Wednesday evening as some numbers began to leak out.

According to these officials, Iraq's needs in 14 sectors - including health, education, water and electricity - come to $9.3 billion for 2004 and an additional $26.3 billion over the following three years, for a total of nearly $36 billion through 2007. Separately, the officials said the Bush administration had come up with its own list of needs in areas like the oil industry and security, which are not covered by the United Nations and World Bank assessments. The American assessment comes to $19 billion. It was not clear what part of the $55 billion total would be met by the United States and what part would be met by international donors. But many officials say that the early hope for billions of dollars from wealthy countries is fading rapidly.

In part, U.S. officials say, donor nations are balking at the large sums, especially after Bush's aides had argued that Iraq was so rich with oil reserves that it could pay for nearly all of its own revitalization. French and German leaders cite the war and Bush himself - both still deeply unpopular in Europe - as another reason they will have a hard time persuading people to put up much money. The European Union has suggested donating $250 million, according to Bush administration officials, who say they are shocked at such a small sum. Canada says it may give about $200 million, and Japanese officials are reported by news organizations in Tokyo to be considering something in the range of $1 billion. But few officials in the administration say they are sure what the final sum will be. A lot depends, they say, on the reception accorded the new U.S. resolution on Iraq, which administration officials say can pass the Security Council but not necessarily unanimously. As the numbers relating to Iraq's needs began leaking on Wednesday, many things remained unclear.

International economic officials say the World Bank and the UN Development Fund, which came up with the $36 billion figure, have been scrupulous in assessing Iraq's needs. But the officials made no effort to suggest where the money would come from. Confusion was further stirred by the Bush administration's separate request for $20 billion in Iraq aid from Congress for 2004. If that money is approved, it will pay for some of the needs assessed by the United Nations and the World Bank, and for some assessed by the U.S.-$ led occupation, various officials said.