Avoid reconstruction mistakes in Iraq, warns co-founder of Maryam


DAVOS: Public and private sector funding is vital for Ukraine’s reconstruction in a post-war scenario, but it is also essential to ensure that corruption does not block reconstruction efforts, said a Maryam Forum Foundation panel at the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The Ukraine4All: Building an Inclusive Future event invited leading figures from business and politics, as well as young Ukrainian world leaders, to discuss Ukraine’s future after the end of hostilities in its war with the Russia.

Maryam panelist and co-founder Khaled Janahi said the failures of previous Western reconstruction efforts in countries like Iraq cannot be repeated.

“The problem is that (Ukraine needs) 1 trillion dollars and it’s how to make sure that out of that trillion dollars, 980 billion dollars is really used correctly, spent by the Ukrainians, with help from outside, to build Ukraine, whether it is hard infrastructure or soft infrastructure and to have the institutions around it,” he said.

“And only 20 billion goes to corruption, instead of 400 billion goes to corruption and 600 (to reconstruction).”

He said the mistakes of the US reconstruction project in Iraq, which he said was still “effectively a failed state”, were a good lesson to be learned.

“The Americans invaded, they left, and in the Arab world we have the story ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ – they left forty thieves in the country,” Janahi said.

“In this country, they are still paying the price for those forty thieves.

“It’s not just Ukrainians who have to fight their own corruption from within, we also have to make sure from without,” he added.

Janahi said that compared to refugees from the MENA region, those fleeing Ukraine would have better opportunities.

“We have all these refugees – Syrians, Palestinians, Yemenis – and the good news is that Ukrainians will not be the same,” he said.

“The Ukrainians will be taken care of and they will get through this because the world is going in this direction, and this is how the world is going.

“And one of the reasons is that we as Arabs are not pushing for these guys from our part of the world to be taken care of.

“We live today in a world run by leaders, not leaders. Even if they are elected, many of them are leaders and not leaders. Unfortunately, what happened, that whether in Syria or now in Ukraine, proves it,” he added.

Panelists discuss Ukraine’s post-war future during the Maryam Forum Foundation’s panel titled ‘Ukraine for All: Building an Inclusive Future’. (AN Photo/Fontaine Daniel)

Fellow panelist, businessman Martin Sorrell, said it will take a collaborative effort from the private and public sectors for Ukraine’s reconstruction project to succeed.

“The fundamental question is that Putin will stay in power, and Putin will continue to pursue (this war). The only way to be able to rebuild Ukraine is not to rely solely on the private sector – there must be an effort from government institutions,” he added.

“I don’t think the private sector alone will do. This will require a concerted and coordinated response from the public sector and government on a large scale.

Eric Cantor, a former US congressman and House majority leader, agreed and also warned of the risk of corrupt officials derailing the reconstruction project.

“The private sector won’t be the first – government has to be the catalyst,” he said. “But I also think there has to be transparency. You have to see where the corruption is.

“How can we keep taxpayers’ money out of the hands of the oligarchs? How do you ensure that the procurement process in cities and towns in Ukraine does not see government officials taking some of that money?

“This image must now become the way the world can believe that Ukraine can build a new Ukraine, and no longer as it was,” he added.

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