Basra inspection to pave way for yen-loan reconstruction projects

Kyodo

In the first full-scale government inspection since a Ground Self-Defense Force unit withdrew in 2006, Japanese officials recently visited Basra in southern Iraq to pave the way for yen-loan-financed reconstruction projects.

The move, welcomed by Iraq, is part of an attempt by Japan to catch up with other countries in getting its private sector involved in on-the-ground reconstruction support for the country, which is seeing gradual improvement in its security situation.

“We’ve been waiting for you for 30 years,” Abdul-Hadi Saad, general deputy of the State Company of Fertilizers, said as the company welcomed a total of six officials from the Japanese Embassy and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

During the two-day visit from Monday, the six met Iraqi officials of the fertilizer plant in Khor Al-Zubair and the South Refineries Company in Basra as well as authorities of Umm Qasr port. Japanese companies have been involved in the construction of the three areas.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. was involved in building the Basra facility, which started to operate in 1979.

But war and economic sanctions imposed on Iraq have made it difficult for the plant to import replacement parts from Japan and led the workers there to carefully maintain the equipment to avoid using poor-quality components instead.

On the vast ground of the South Refineries Company, meanwhile, red rust and patches were seen on pipes, reflecting the battering of the Iran-Iraq War and military operations against Iraq over the past 30 years or so.

Although Iraq is an oil-producing nation, its domestic supply of gasoline falls short by 7 million liters per day.

Expectations are high Japan will award approximately ¥2.08 billion in loans to the company’s production facility, which can cover more than 40 percent, or about 3 million liters, of the shortage in supply.

“They have done very well despite all these years of economic sanctions. It is surprising that the facilities are working properly in this situation,” said a Japanese official following the inspections.

“There would be no engineer who would not feel heartbroken seeing this current situation,” another official said.

British Consul General in Basra Nigel Haywood said the city’s security situation has improved and there have only been two shell attacks since September.

While acknowledging the need for a certain level of security, Haywood also emphasized that support from the private sector would be possible.