The reconstruction of Iraq

Iraq, photo: CTK

The focus of this weeks economics report is the possibilities for Czech firms to participate in the reconstruction of a post-war Iraq. Iraq's infrastructure has been devastated by the recent war and over a decade of crippling sanctions which has left the country in dire need of assistance. The Czech Republic has signalled that it wants to play a role in rebuilding the country; after all the former Czechoslovakia played a large role in the development of the country's infrastructure and overall economic development. One example of this is the petrochemical industry, of which 60 percent was built by Czech firms.

Iraq,  photo: CTK
I spoke with Martin Tlapa, head of the Czech Republic's trade promotion agency Czech Trade, and asked him what was is the history of the trade relationship between Iraq and the Czech Republic.

"You know, in the 1970s and 1980s Iraq was one of the most important partners from developing countries. We were very much involved in engineering projects, and the mining industry in Iraq. Also, we were a very important importer of tractors to Iraq. Historically, there is a lot of history in trade relations between the Czech Republic and Iraq. There was almost zero trade when there were sanctions against Iraq. This also had something to do with Iraq itself, because of the political broadcasting [Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] to Iraq from the Czech Republic. But I am optimistic, I think now we have very good conditions to come back and together with American suppliers to be one of the participants which will be involved in the reconstruction of the economy."

What are some of the main areas where Czech firms can help in the reconstruction?

"I think there are three main areas: One is the water treatment industry and the environmental industry. The second is engineering and the building of infrastructure, including electricity. And third one is in the oil industry."

What is Czech Trade doing to help?

Iraq,  photo: CTK
"We are working with the Ministry of Industry and Trade to collect business proposals from Czech companies and preparing these profiles of Czech companies. We are also working with our embassies in Washington and Kuwait to present these proposals to the international organisations who will be involved in the reconstruction of Iraq."

The Czech Republic's ability to participate in the reconstruction effort is not limited to Iraq's economy and infrastructure. The Czech Republic is already participating in providing humanitarian aid and the recent deployment of a field hospital to the region is one example of this. I asked Mr Tlapa how the Czech Republic could help in these areas.

"Czech agencies, the non-governmental agencies are already involved in humanitarian assistance to this region. I think there is also an opportunity to help in building the state government in Iraq. Czech experts should be in a position in developing the operation of agencies and ministries in Iraq and to use the knowledge that we have and that we were able to prove in for example Bosnia."

The Czech Republ

Iraq,  photo: CTK
ic's stance on the war in Iraq is quite vague. Officially the Czech Republic is against any war without a United Nations mandate. The government approved a resolution which stated that it regrets the war, and the senior member of the governing coalition, the Social Democrats, passed a resolution at their party congress in March which stated that the war in Iraq is illegal and a violation of international law. However, despite this the Czech Republic does appear on a list of countries that the United States says does support military action in Iraq. So, I asked Mr Tlapa if these mixed opinions could hinder the Czech Republic's ability to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq.

"You know, I think that internationally the Czech position was quite clear and I think that now this is something that should help Czech business interests in the region."