Sunday, August 31, 2008

Iraqi Power Expert Questions Government’s Figures

On August 25, Iraq’s Electricity Ministry reported that power production had reached roughly the same levels as before the war. In 2002, Iraq produced 5,305 megawatts, and in 2008 5,302 megawatts. Despite the increase, Baghdad was still only able to meet around 50% of demand, which has skyrocketed since the invasion. In 2002 demand peaked at 6,049 megawatts, with only 12.3% of that not met. In 2008 demand had ballooned to 9,708 megawatts with 45.4% not met. The average household only gets six hours of electricity per day from public power. Baghdad said it hopes to meet demand by 2012, although even the Electricity official interviewed for the piece questioned whether that could happen.

Three days later on August 28, the Iraqi paper Azzaman reported that an Iraqi power expert questioned the Electricity Ministry’s claims. Although the article lacked any specific numbers, the expert claimed that the Ministry was including power delivered from Iran and Turkey in its numbers for Iraqi production.

From other reports Iraqi production has seemed to increase. The Financial Times said that Iraqi production was at 4,110 megawatts in May 2008. By the end of July, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) claimed that Iraq produced 5,615 megawatts that month. That was the highest electrical production for a quarter since the U.S. invasion in 2003. Most of this was attributed to American efforts that added 2,500 megawatts of production after $4.62 billion has been invested in the industry.

Power is still unevenly distributed throughout the country and even within cities. Baghdad has the worst electricity problem, and despite an average of six hours of power a day, the Financial Times found a neighborhood in south Baghdad that only had power for one hour a day, and had a power outage for five days in June 2008. The SIGIR found that Baghdad, Irbil, Wassit, and Karbala provinces all provided less than 50% of demand, with the last only reaching 46.5%. In comparison, Tamim, Dhi Qar, and Basra did the best job, with Basra meeting 80.7% of demand.

The Electricity Ministry itself also suffers from major problems. Black outs are still all to common. There have been two national power outages in the first half of 2008, the same amount as all of 2007. Of the two regional power grids, there were 18 in the northern region in the first half of the year, compared to 26 in 2007, and seven in the southern-central region versus fifteen for all of last year. Government facilities are also given priority over residential ones, creating more shortages, and skewing the averages of daily electricity available. Baghdad also lacks a national power plan, which means the Oil Ministry doesn’t always provide the fuel to run power plants, while the Electricity Ministry doesn’t always have the electricity necessary to power oil facilities.

It is estimated that $25 billion is still needed to completely rebuild the electrical system. The Electricity Ministry has come nowhere near what is needed as its capital budget that is used to invest in infrastructure has actually declined. In 2005, the Ministry spent a total of $147 million, $142 million of which was the capital budget. By 2007, spending had gone down to $78 million with only $1 million being spent on facilities, power lines, etc. That was a 93% decline in capital spending.

Providing services is one of the basic duties of government. Now that violence is finally down, it is time that Iraq begin investing in its infrastructure and rebuild its power system. This should be easy because with the high price of oil, the country is overflowing with profits. The government however is beset by problems that hinder its ability to do much more than pay salaries and its bills. Its been said that Iraq has gone from a failed state to a fragile state, but for it to reach a stable one it must do a better job meeting the basic needs of the public.

SOURCES

Allam, Hannah, “5 years after Iraq’s ‘liberation,’ there are worms in the water,” McClatchy Newspapers, 3/16/08

Azzaman, “Electricity Ministry accused of doctoring power output figures,” 8/28/08

Ketz, Sammy, “Iraq power generation finally hits pre-invasion levels,” Agence France Presse, 8/25/08

Negus, Steve, “Black-outs sap public’s faith in Baghdad,” Financial Times, 6/16/08

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/08

United States Government Accountability Office, “Iraqi Revenues, Expenditures, and Surplus,” August 2008
- “Progress Report: Some Gains Made, Updated Strategy Needed,” June 2008

Voices of Iraq, “New electricity plan in Baghdad – ‘something better than nothing,’” 2/1/08

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