Thursday, September 6, 2007

Regional security stimulates economic growth

BAGHDAD — Coalition security efforts here are making progress, a fact reflected in other areas, including an improvement in the economic environment. That relationship was cited by Ambassador Charles P. Ries, Coordinator for Economic Transition in Iraq and Minister for Economic Affairs, and Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, Multi-National Force-Iraq spokesman earlier this week at the Combined Press Information Center.

Maj. Gen. Bergner started the conference earlier this week by outlining the recent improvements in security here.

Overall the occurrences of ethno-sectarian deaths have decreased country-wide, evidenced by the lowest numbers of security incidents in over a year.

“In the coming months, Coalition and Iraqi forces will keep the pressure on the enemy, while also supporting important economic and reconstruction efforts in areas (where) we have already secured the population,” Bergner said.

Ambassador Ries said that greater economic stability is closely linked with the security of the country. “The improvement on the security side that General Bergner described is having an impact on the economic side.”

The Ambassador described several priorities his team will focus on in the up coming months. Their first priority is and will remain developing a sustained and sustainable economy in the areas being secured by the surge.

Most important in developing a strong Iraqi economy is allowing the Iraqi government to make most of the decisions involving privatizing businesses, budgeting and regulating energy industry.

The Framework Law is hydrocarbon regulation legislation for the country, which along with the Revenue Sharing Law, will be reviewed by parliament this month. If parliament approves those laws, they will set up a basic frame work for the country in regards to oil and gas revenue sharing.

In addition the electrical supply here has improved, Ries said. The country’s electric power generation capacity has increased 2000 megawatts over the last three years. Coalition forces are working closely with the Iraqi government to repair and maintain transmission lines damaged by insurgents.

The Iraqi government will make the final decision on privatizing electrical services, but in Baghdad many citizens currently receive their power from private generators on a cost sharing basis.

The bulk of private investment here is represented by 3.75 billion dollars being paid for cell phone licenses, another indication, Ries and Bergner say, that the economic and security situations are improving here.

(U.S. Army story by SPC Megan J. Burmeister, Combined Press Information Center)