Reconstruction: Iraq vs Louisiana

· Edgewise, Katrina, Paleoblogs

The Bush administration has doled out a lot of cash for the “reconstruction” of Iraq and we now have a report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The long story short is that $25 billion was appropriated by Congress to rebuild Iraq, including for 136 projects to improve water and sanitation and 425 projects to provide electricity; fewer than half of the water and sanitation projects will get built; 300 of the electricity projects will be completed. $400 million went to “unforseen administrative costs” which reduced the funds available for projects. Former Ambassador John Negroponte “shifted” over $3 billion from reconstruction to training Iraqi security forces, and miscellaneous “democracy institution-building” projects. A separate audit of financial practices of the American administration in Iraq revealed the disappearance of substantial sums of money, some of which shrink-wrapped piles of $100s had been cached in unlocked closets and piled on office floors.
Congress has appropriated $6.2 billion for reconstruction of Louisiana. The aid will be in the form of “block grants” to state agencies. Louisiana state officials had asked for $30 billion [see Note below] to help owners rebuild 200,000 homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and a federal program set up to oversee rebuilding efforts. The Bush administration rejected that proposal, and Donald E. Powell, son of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and now federal Gulf Coast coordinator, said to state officials, “I thinks it’s important for Louisiana to spend this money in a very prudent and wise manner” and indicated that the federal government will be keeping close watch on the Block Grant money going to the state.
Congressionally authorized funds for water, sanitation, electricity infrastructure projects, as well as security force training funds and unspecified administrative costs to
Iraq = $24 billion
Congressionally authorized funds for Community Development Block Grants to
Louisiana = $6.2 billion
Note: The Congressional Budget Office estimates of capital losses due to Katrina are $70 to $130 billion (287, 000 homes lost overall, with 135,000 homes damaged just in New Orleans; 90% of crude oil production and 70% of natural gas production facilities in the Gulf destroyed or damaged). The CBO compares this with the total cost of damage due to the Sept. 11 attack which was $87 billion (although only $10 billion of it was property loss).