BAGHDAD, 5 July (IRIN) - Iraq's Ministry of Oil (MoO) has announced that billions of dollars have been spent on repairing and replacing oil industry infrastructure damaged or destroyed by terrorist attacks nationwide. The money could have been invested in aid and development according to officials.
"The attacks on oil facilities have required very large investments to repair. Billions of dollars have been spent. For sure, if the security situation was better in the country, this money would have been invested in humanitarian and badly needed development programmes," Assem Jihad, spokesman for the MoO, said.
Jihad explained that 315 attacks on oil facilities took place in the two years from June 2003 to June 2005, causing a massive loss of revenue from oil exports at a time when international prices for are high. The cost of repairing the damage to the nation's primary source of income has been more than US $12 billion. Despite US assertions that the insurgency is being tamed, thirty percent of the costly attacks took place this year.
"Insurgents are not only killing hundreds of their countrymen and women but stunting the development of Iraq. These billions would have helped in many public projects to serve Iraqis but we had no choice [but] to divert the money to repairing the oil infrastructure, because it's the main income for the country," he stressed.
Professor Salah Abdu, an economist at Baghdad University, said the $12 billion could have funded one in three of the of planned public reconstruction projects in Iraq.
"This money would be enough to repair the entire water infrastructure in Iraq, giving stability and a better life to so many millions but the US occupation and failure of the new government to bring security to Iraq has landed us in this mess - what a complete waste!" Abdu roared.
Iraqi oil production is currently running at around two million barrels per day, mostly from fields in southern Iraq. Oil experts have said the country should be producing a minimum of seven million barrels daily but only if security improves and $20 billion is invested to improve the ageing oil infrastructure.
As well as the loss of significant quantities of hard currency from the oil attacks, the decrease in production has led to a reduction in local production of petrol which has had a directly negative impact on the economy, Abdu added.
[This Item is Delivered to the "Africa-English" Service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: Irin@ocha.unon.org or Web: http://www.irinnews.org . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by commercial sites requires written IRIN permission.]
Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005