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Speckhard On Iraq Reconstruction

Daniel Speckhard heads the U.S. State Department's Iraq reconstruction management office. He predicts that the Iraqi economy will grow significantly in the coming year as reconstruction efforts begin to show results and tens of thousands of new businesses begin operating.

To create more jobs, especially in locations where insurgents have been active, reconstruction authorities have launched programs to assist small businesses in various ways, including loans. The most pressing need, Mr. Speckhard said, is to provide more electricity, water, and sewage disposal as the Iraqi economy expands. But insurgents and criminals are bent on thwarting such efforts.

Khalid Ala'a, a senior official at Iraq's electricity ministry, said that the ongoing violence was causing problems in providing the country with sufficient electrical power. "The difficulties in guaranteeing security to our employees and the increase of demand for power during the winter season have caused a decrease in the production of power at our plants," Ala'a told the Reuters news agency.

Iraq's success will depend on expanding education and health care as well as rebuilding infrastructure. Reconstruction projects have already brought clean water to several million Iraqis and sewage treatment to more than four million. Five million Iraqi children have been vaccinated against polio and the rate of measles has declined. Thirty thousand Iraqi teachers have been trained and eight million new textbooks have been put into schools.

President George W. Bush says it is important to ensure that Iraq's economy performs well "so that people see the benefits of democracy":

"It's one thing to have elections; it's another thing for people to say, 'Democracy is good for me, democracy is good for my family.' And so we're working on reconstruction and fighting corruption, and making sure that there are tangible benefits. And it's been difficult because the enemy is not only brutal in terms of killing people, the enemy is just relentless in trying to destroy infrastructure so that people cannot see the benefits of democracy."

Mr. Bush says that despite the insurgents' campaign of terror and sabotage, Iraqis have shown "incredible courage and a strong desire to live in democracy."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.