Amwaj starts $238m Iraq housing, hotel project
Baghdad, May 25, 2010
Iraqi-run Amwaj International unveiled a $238 million housing and hotel project in the heart of Baghdad on Monday, as more firms seek to invest in the war-damaged country thanks to an improvement in security.
Iraq, badly hurt by decades of war and sanctions, is trying to lure foreign investors to help rebuild its shattered infrastructure and boost employment.
'Baghdad Gate', one of the first tangible real estate investment projects in the capital, will be built on 25 hectares (62 acres) of land and include a five-star, 25-storey hotel, large shopping mall, office tower and 3,000 residential units.
'The project is being built on prized land, so we chose to make it very distinguished and of a high-quality. It will not be less than any project in the Gulf or even in the world,' Amwaj International chief executive Namir El Akabi said.
'We cannot deny that there is no full security in Iraq, there are difficulties ... but these projects will help in improving the security situation.'
While overall security has started to improve in Iraq, bombings are still common and an inconclusive election in March which produced no outright winner has fuelled concerns of a return to sectarian violence and a rise in insurgency.
Akabi said he believed the real estate project would assist in quelling the insurgency unleashed by the 2003 US-led invasion by providing 2,500 direct jobs for Iraqis and another 20,000 indirect job opportunities.
Iraq's current official unemployment rate is 18 per cent.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who attended the inauguration, said the project would help boost investment and spur other similar projects elsewhere in the country.
Maliki said with the improvement in security, companies that would not venture into Iraq a few years ago were now fighting to win investment and oil projects.
'In the coming years, you will witness, and the world will witness, that all the projects which have been signed have come into existence, whether they are housing projects, oil investment, projects in the water, industry, sewage and agriculture sectors,' Maliki said.
Amwaj International, which has its headquarters in Jordan and also operates in Bahrain, Egypt, India and Syria, has contracted UAE construction group Al Hamad to build Baghdad Gate. It hopes to complete the project, which is being built on a former military base, within the next three years.-Reuters