Yes, it is possible to make the NSW government’s planning and infrastructure efforts look good – just compare them with what’s happening in Iraq.

The New York Times‘s Robert Glanz has a well-researched feature on just one Iraq construction project that might summarise part of that country’s continuing disaster. It also provides another link in the chain of events that has oil prices where they are. A taste:

When Robert Sanders was sent by the Army to inspect the construction work an American company was doing on the banks of the Tigris River, 130 miles north of Baghdad, he expected to see workers drilling holes beneath the riverbed to restore a crucial set of large oil pipelines, which had been bombed during the invasion of Iraq. What he found instead that day in July 2004 looked like some gargantuan heart-bypass operation gone nightmarishly bad. A crew had bulldozed a 300-foot-long trench along a giant drill bit in their desperate attempt to yank it loose from the riverbed. A supervisor later told him that the project’s crews knew that drilling the holes was not possible, but that they had been instructed by the company in charge of the project to continue anyway…

A few weeks later, after the project had burned up all of the $75.7 million allocated to it, the work came to a halt.

The project, called the Fatah pipeline crossing, had been a critical element of a $2.4 billion no-bid reconstruction contract that a Halliburton subsidiary had won from the Army in 2003. The spot where about 15 pipelines crossed the Tigris had been the main link between Iraq’s rich northern oil fields and the export terminals and refineries that could generate much-needed gasoline, heating fuel and revenue for Iraqis.

The story gets worse as it goes on – but you can probably guess that.

Peter Fray

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