The Stampede for Reconstruction Contracts is Also a Boon for Lobbying Firms
Friday 09 May 2003
There was the award to Bechtel, an American firm known for its experience, but equally for its generosity to political parties, especially the GOP, of the first big reconstruction contract in Iraq. Everyone also noticed that the first and provisional master of Iraq, Reserve General Jay Garner, arrived in Baghdad April 21, accompanied by numerous business and financial specialists. But it was the organization of two conferences that just took place in Washington DC that demonstrated most clearly that from now on it s the hour for business.
What is the private sector s role in the reconstruction of an Iraq destroyed by the war? What are the challenges, the ambushes and opportunities for American and international companies? Such were the themes proposed by the American think-tank CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) and the British review, Jane's, which specializes in defense and aeronautics. The Objective: deliver answers to the businessmen, entrepreneurs, and sub-contractors anxious to secure contracts. Acquiring a good understanding of non-traditional costs that the private sector would have to assume is not superfluous, because business in Iraq risks being particularly complex , says the CSIS.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL "COUP"
Monday May 5, the "Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq", described as the most important event of the year by its organizer, William Loiry, President and founder of Equity International, promised to supply its participants with the freshest information on reconstruction programs and their financing . For 595 dollars, no less than 600 people from over 25 countries squeezed themselves into the National Press Club where the meeting was held: company leaders, officials, aid organizations, foreign diplomats but also 21 federal agencies including US Aid, the State Department, and the Defense Department came to hear high level presentations and to network. The opening speech was delivered by Senator Christopher Shays, Chairman of the Congressional Sub-Committee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations. When it was his turn to speak, American Under-Secretary of State, Lincoln P. Blommfield, confirmed that this conference couldn t have come at a better time . According to Mr. Loiry, the most frequently asked questions concerned how companies could sign contracts with American agencies (such as Us Aid, the Defense department, or the Army Corps of Engineers) and with companies already there, such as Bechtel and Halliburton KBR.
Equity International is not starting out in the recovery from catastrophe domain. The lobbying firm has lived on natural and human-provoked disasters since 1996 and has made it a lucrative business. Their first conference took place in 1996 on Bosnia. Conferences followed on the reconstruction of Central America after the passage of Hurricane Mitch, of Venezuela after the floods, of Yugoslavia, and finally, of Afghanistan.
Iraq promises to be Equity s most beautiful coup . The site could soak up to 60 billion dollars worth of contracts from now until 2007. For Bill Loiry, it s the most significant reconstruction effort since the Second World War .
The American Congress has voted on a first credit package of 2.5 billion dollars. If the law constrains Us Aid to contract with American companies only, these can sub-contract work to foreign firms. American companies won t make room easily. That s what the lobbyists are counting on. The success of the conference was such that Equity announced a second one would take place the end of June in Washington.
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