Monday, April 03, 2006

Funny, doesn't smell like Arpège

"Promise her anything, but give her Arpège."
Classic ad campaign for French perfume, Arpège

One success the US reconstruction of Iraq can point to is building health clinics. Parsons, Inc. got the $200 million contract to build 300 of them. And Iraq needs them, with bodies sprouting like mushrooms after a rainstorm. 300 clinics. Not a lot, given the need, but 300 clinics, nonetheless.

Nonetheless. Actually, much less, and almost none.
A reconstruction contract for the building of 142 primary health centers across Iraq is running out of money, after two years and roughly $200 million, with no more than 20 clinics now expected to be completed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says.

The contract, awarded to U.S. construction giant Parsons Inc. in the flush, early days of reconstruction in Iraq, was expected to lay the foundation of a modern health care system for the country, putting quality medical care within reach of all Iraqis.

Parsons, according to the Corps, will walk away from more than 120 clinics that on average are two-thirds finished. Auditors say the project serves as a warning for other U.S. reconstruction efforts due to be completed this year. (Washington Post)
Oh, shit.
Coming with little public warning, the 86 percent shortfall of completions dismayed the World Health Organization's representative for Iraq. "That's not good. That's shocking," Naeema al-Gasseer said by telephone from Cairo. "We're not sending the right message here. That's affecting people's expectations and people's trust, I must say."

By the end of 2006, the $18.4 billion that Washington has allocated for Iraq's reconstruction runs out. All remaining projects in the U.S. reconstruction program, including electricity, water, sewer, health care and the justice system, are due for completion. As a result, the next nine months are crunchtime for the easy-term contracts that were awarded to American contractors early on, before surging violence drove up security costs and idled workers.


U.S. authorities say they made a special effort to preserve the more than $700 million of work for Iraq's health care system, which had fallen into decay after two decades of war and international sanctions.

Doctors in Baghdad's hospitals still cite dirty water as one of the major killers of infants. The city's hospitals place medically troubled newborns two to an incubator, when incubators work at all.

Early in the occupation, U.S. officials mapped out the construction of 300 primary-care clinics, said Gasseer, the WHO official. In addition to spreading basic health care beyond the major cities into small towns, the clinics were meant to provide training for Iraq's medical professionals. "Overall, they were considered vital," she said.
Then they diverted money meant for health centers, water, electricity, sewers and other vital needs to security. That's because Iraq is in such good shape, I guess. Progress. The contract to Parsons was cost-plus, i.e., not on an agreed upon price but whatever it cost, plus a profit. The number of clinics went from 300 to 142 in 2005, but today, only 6 are finished. The money runs out at the end of the year, so a "negotiated agreement" was made with Parsons to finish another 14. We'll see.

Meanwhile, $200 million down the toilet, 2% of the planned clinics built with another 5% promised. Promised.

Promise them anything, but give them Jack Abramoff.