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American Forces Press Service

Iraqi Government Making Progress, Ambassador Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2007 – While security remains the overriding concern in Iraq, the Iraqi government is making progress on the economic front, the coordinator for economic transition in Iraq, today said.

The coordinator, Ambassador Timothy Carney; Jeremiah Pam U.S. Treasury attaché with the embassy in Baghdad; and Joseph Gregoire, the embassy executive secretary with responsibility for provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq, spoke via teleconference from Baghdad with Pentagon reporters.

Carney said his job is to assist the Iraqis to realize their resources and their interests in giving services and economic development to their people. He also is responsible for trying to bring together different sources of U.S. money aimed at reconstruction.

“Clearly security is the most urgent problem,” Carney said. “However, I submit that economic performance can make the government of Iraq … a valid interlocutor for the vital political solution that is the true future of this country.”

Iraq is a country rich in natural resources. It has the second largest proven oil resources in the world, after Saudi Arabia, and it has water. With irrigation, northern Iraq could be the Middle East’s breadbasket, officials in Baghdad said.

Economic progress will mean political progress, Carney said, and the Iraqi government must start providing the services that people expect in modern states. “I'm particularly focused on the execution of Iraq's capital budget,” he said.

This is not the operating budget that pays workers and pensions, but the budget that pays for things, whether it is water plants or electricity or sewage treatment plants and the like. This money for the capital budget will come from money Iraq earns from oil exports, he said.

Iraq's budget for 2006 was $34 billion, Pam said. However, the Iraqi government was only able to spend $26 billion of that. They have reprogrammed the money for this year, and Iraqi ministry officials are working to ensure the money is spent to the benefit of all Iraqis.

Pam said the Iraqi government is “showing a very strong indication of the readiness and the commitment and organization to do a better job spending that money and beginning capital projects.”

In addition, provincial reconstruction teams are in business to help intermediate governments -- governates, cities and towns -- to build governing capacity, Gregoire said.

“PRTs have been using projects and training to promote transparency, accountability and more effective local government, as well as to promote reconciliation, build civil society and further economic recovery,” he said.

The teams allow Iraqis to take the lead in determining what is funded and how projects should move forward, he said. The teams allow for rapid mobilization of resources to tackle long-term development issues.

The Baghdad team has 90 people -- roughly a third each from the military, civilian agencies and Iraqi government. It is designed to kick-start developmental processes. “Short-term gains build for long-term development and strengthen democratic gains,” Gregoire said. “In Iraq, the PRT is supporting decentralization of government services.”

He said the teams focus on five areas: the rule of law, infrastructure for the provision of essential services, economic development, governance and public diplomacy.

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