The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, announced yesterday that Iraq will be spending $300m to refurbish the top 6 hotels in the capital Baghdad in time for the Arab League summit at the end of March 2011.
While I’m sure this is welcome news for the guests who stay in these hotels, and the hotels themselves, there must be some citizens thinking why can’t Iraq’s thousand other infrastructure problems be dealt with like this. Money is being spent, in short time and using foreign companies to achieve a result. Why can’t school or hospital refurbishment be done in a similar way?
I appreciate Iraq needs to look the part when hosting the Arab leaders, but surely this sense of urgency needs to be applied to frontline services as well. When our ‘friends’ (read into that what you will) from the Arab world leave, the Iraqi people are the ones who will stay behind, not benefiting from these millions that are being spent.
For all the complaints about budgetary issues, $300m is a tidy sum that I’m guessing could be used to refurbish 200 schools, or 100 hospitals. Prestige is important, but that comes when the people have good basic services, otherwise it only adds salt to the wounds. Can somebody please tell Mr Zebari not to rub it in the Iraqi people’s face when the gleaming new hotels are unveiled.