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Participating In Iraq's Reconstruction
Dr.Akmal Hussain
Newspaper: Daily Times
Dated: Thursday, 17th April 2003

The war in Iraq has been won but not yet the peace. For most Iraqis relief at the collapse of Saddam's brutal regime is overtaken by the suffering resulting from a simultaneous collapse of the material conditions of human existence: There is a breakdown of administration, the economy, law and order, and the basic services such as food, water supply and medical care. As an interim government is put into place a massive international effort will be needed to provide succour to the people of Iraq. It is a challenge for the government and the private sector in Pakistan to mobilize itself to play its due role in this effort. If Pakistan succeeds in doing so, many years of mistrust will be replaced by a new era of friendship and cooperation with a key Arab country. It would also provide a much needed stimulus to economic growth, exports and employment for Pakistan. In this article we will briefly indicate some of the specific steps that can be taken in this context.

The U.S. Council on Foreign Relations has estimated that Iraqi reconstruction would require an annual investment of US $ 20 billion for the next several years. (This does not include the investment required to restore to pre war levels, and then develop the infrastructure for oil production). Pakistan should aim for a 5% share of the supply of goods and services emanating from this minimal expenditure (i.e. about U.S. $ 1 billion a year). If this aim is achieved it would contribute a 10% growth annually to Pakistan's exports.

In pursuit of this objective a Pakistan Task Force on Iraq's Reconstruction needs to be established without delay. It should include the government's Minister for Privatization and Investment, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, together with a senior representative of the Chambers of Commerce, Heads of the Frontier Works Organization and major private sector construction firms, CEO's of key private sector companies, economic experts and professionals in the field of water supply, sanitation, and health care.

The Pakistan Task Force for Iraq's Reconstruction could undertake three tasks:

1. On the basis of field visits to Iraq, identify the specific areas in which Pakistan could provide support for Iraqi reconstruction. In this context the specific firms in Pakistan's private sector, which could provide institutional services and manufactured/semi-manufactured goods should be identified.

2. Coordinate with the Government of Pakistan and the provisional government in Iraq to facilitate the provision of management and technical support in vital sectors such as medical care, water supply, public administration, banking and finance.

3. To facilitate the export to Iraq of vitally needed manufactured goods from Pakistan, supplier's credits could be arranged with the support of the government of Pakistan. This would consist of Pakistani manufacturers exporting to Iraq the specified goods, with the government paying to the exporters the rupee value of their exports. The government of Pakistan can then recover from the government of Iraq, the foreign exchange equivalent plus interest after a period of two years.

Apart from the work of the Task Force, the government of Pakistan needs to engage in economic diplomacy, the U.S. government (particularly Pakistan's friends in the Pentagon) and the U.N., to get its rightful share in the reconstruction of Iraq. At the same time Pakistan's Chambers of Commerce can quickly start mobilizing teams of professionals in administration, banking, finance, health care, water supply and sanitation to work in Iraq as soon as they get the go ahead from the Task Force.

The individual private sector firms which have been previously exporting to Turkey, Jordan and Syria need to reorganize their export organizations there to quickly supply to Iraq across the border when suppliers credits are made available by the Task Force: The range of exportables include food items, bottled drinking water, medical supplies, refrigeration equipment, air conditioners, textiles, paper products and school supplies including stationery items. Finally Pakistan's military establishment which has some of the finest professionals skills and training facilities in the world can contribute to rebuilding the military and security apparatus of a democratic Iraq. The Pakistan military has a longstanding institutional relationship with the U.S. military. On the basis of these collegial ties, Pakistan can seek a role in the training and logistics of the Iraqi military and police forces.

Pakistan has the economic, professional and entrepreneurial capabilities to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq. It would help to heal the wounds of the Iraqi people, their economy and institutions. Equally it can provide a stimulus to Pakistan's economy and add to its standing in the world. The question is, can the government and the private sector in Pakistan rise to this challenge?

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