Thursday, May 17, 2007
Beckett, Ionesco And The GAO
More on Iraq reconstruction, this time from from a report on Iraq's oil and electricity sectors released today by the General Accounting Office. The upshot? We've spent roughly $5.1 billion on the Iraqi oil and electricity infrastructure. There's still billions of dollars of work left to be done. And the results are disappointing, even judging by the modest goals we'd set.
Among the problems cited? Corruption (between 10 and 30 percent of refined fuels are diverted to the black market), poor coordination between the oil and electricity ministries that results in inefficient electrical output, poor security conditions that increase costs and reduce production, and the Iraqi government's lack of clear legal and regulatory structures, as well as financial accounting and management systems, which serve as a disincentive for foreign investment.
As to who's going to finance the work that still needs to be done, one thing is certain: It won't be us. According to the report, we've completed 88% of our oil projects, and should wrap the rest up shortly. And with the Iraqi oil revenue-sharing law in limbo, few countries or companies are willing to invest in Iraq's lucrative but unstable oil sector (although the Kurds have managed to strike a controversial deal with a small Norwegian company).
Like every official government document dealing with Iraq, this one contains its share of memorable, Theater of the Absurd passages. Here's my favorite:
With respect to our recommendation to establish an effective metering system, State commented that the installation and reading of retail electricity meters would be difficult in the present security environment... We agree with State’s comment...
Meter readers in Baghdad. Sheesh.