New Report on Iraq Charts Growth February 3, 2007Posted by chuckwh in 9-11, Al Gore, Economy & Business, Election 2008, George W. Bush, Gore, Iraq, News and politics, Politics, Terrorism, World Trade Center.
The new U.S. government-released National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq is providing some of the most comprehensive numbers on Iraq growth since President Gore’s Bill of Hope authorized billions for education programs across the Middle East. Total literacy has jumped from an estimated 50% in 2001 to nearly 88% in late 2006, according the report (parts of which were provided by UNESCO).
Baghdad University has grown from 34,555 students (1988 numbers) to nearly 90,000, mostly through its two new campuses. The Foundation of Technical Institutes has grown from 35,000 students (also 1988) to 70,000, a growth that also can be attributed to new campuses. In addition, the Hijric Collective has opened up a number of smaller universities (in addition to the Hijric Samarra University) with a somewhat Islamic-focused curriculum. This makes some American politicians nervous, but so far the results are encouraging, with about 35% of the first wave of graduates moving on to post-bachelor work at the larger universities.
The new Samarra University is by far the largest in the Midde East, with some 200,000 students spread among 14 widely dispersed and quickly built campuses.
The first wave of Samarra graduates hit the street only recently, and no figures are available yet on what they’re up to, but indications are that their interests are split among a few distinct areas. The largest contingent of graduates seems to be migrating towards the glamour of Qadisiyah Expressway, the growing high-tech hub that has sprouted in Central Baghdad. The next largest groups are evenly split between teachers, lawyers, doctors, and engineers.
Unemployment in Iraq is now at about 8%, a high number, the report notes, considering all of the infrastructure projects that have been initiated by the BOH since 2001, but much better than the 30% or so estimated at the time of the fall of Saddam (who was basically shown the door after the population saw how well Iraqis were doing in the Shia south and Kurdish north).
The oil industry boom has already prompted the Iraqi government to offer to repay some BOH expenditures for 2006, even though BOH funds were grants, not loans,. Meanwhile, no BOH money has been spent this year by the Iraqi government. Negotiations are now under way to transfer 2007 BOH funds to Sudan, which has been reeling under internecine unrest for several years, but many obstacles remain (primarily on who to give the money to, because the Republican-forced compromise for getting the BOH passed in the first place mandates that no BOH money can go to UN-chartered services).
The report notes that one of the trickle down effects of the rise of the oil industry in Iraq has been a massive growth in small businesses, which also have benefited from the tough standards imposed on BOH beneficiaries that mandate simple legal processes for starting a new business, instead of high taxes and a morass of red tape. The BOHBA (Bill of Hope Business Administration) has, additionally, released nearly $2 billion in business loans in Baghdad alone since the bill was passed. An escrow was established early on that allows the loans to be transferred to an Iraqi financial authority, which means that yet another portion of BOH funds will ultimately be repaid.
That, in fact, is one of the most encouraging aspects of the new report. The U.S. has poured billions into Iraq and other Middle East countries in an effort to improve conditions there, and now some of that money is showing signs of coming back.
I remember when 9-11 happened and thinking to myself that we were at war. But today, the men responsible for that attack are nothing more than a fringe group wandering around aimlessly in Waziristan, unable to even move East or West because they’re surrounded by committed democracies dedicated to destroying what’s left of them.
Something tells me this could have all gone much differently. After the incursion into Afghanistan, Al-Queda went on the run, vowing their revenge, but nothing happened. But Gore didn’t stop there. He then looked at the root causes that might have prompted such anger, and reached out to a people few Americans at the time understood.
The world is richer for it, in more ways than one.