BAGHDAD — In its largest reconstruction effort since the Marshall Plan, the United States government has spent $53 billion for relief and reconstruction in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, building tens of thousands of hospitals, water treatment plants, electricity substations, schools and bridges.
But there are growing concerns among American officials that Iraq will not be able to adequately maintain the facilities once the Americans have left, potentially wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and jeopardizing Iraq’s ability to provide basic services to its people.The projects run the gamut — from a cutting-edge, $270 million water treatment plant in Nasiriya that works at a fraction of its intended capacity because it is too sophisticated for Iraqi workers to operate, to a farmers’ market that farmers cannot decide how to share, to a large American hospital closed immediately after it was handed over to Iraq because the government was unable to supply it with equipment, a medical staff or electricity.
The concern about the sustainability of the projects comes as Iraq is preparing for pivotal national elections in January and as rebuilding has emerged as a political imperative in Iraq, eclipsing security in some parts of the country as the main anxiety of an electorate frustrated with the lack of social, economic and political progress. American forces are scheduled to begin withdrawing in large numbers next year.
By JACKIE CALMES and MICHAEL COOPER
No, some conservative-leaning economists counter, we were right: The package has been wasteful, ineffectual and even harmful to the extent that it adds to the nation’s debt and crowds out private-sector borrowing.
These long-running arguments have flared now that the White House and Congressional leaders are talking about a new “jobs bill.” But with roughly a quarter of the stimulus money out the door after nine months, the accumulation of hard data and real-life experience has allowed more dispassionate analysts to reach a consensus that the stimulus package, messy as it is, is working.
Let's see how the malcontents spin that.
And finally, this nugget:
The local Borders outlet had handed out 1,000 wristbands to book purchasers; the wristbands were supposed to procure fans Palin's signature on their hardback copies of "Going Rogue." But several dozen people who had been promised signatures were turned away empty-handed after waiting hours in poor weather, a local news outlet, the Indy Channel, reported.
"We gave up our entire workday, stayed in the cold, my kids were crying," one man was quoted saying. "They went home with my wife. She was out here in the freezing cold all day. I feel like I don't want to support Sarah."