Appointment in Samarra

Have a listen to this NPR report from Samarra, where a sacred Shiite mosque was blown up by insurgents two years ago. It’s a depressing tale of how things are still terrible in much of Iraq, but what struck me most was a little economic snippet.

A Turkish contractor is rebuilding the mosque, which is perhaps understandable: perhaps Iraq lacks contractors with the necessary project management and technical skills. (Turkish contractors, incidentally, have long been among the leaders in building projects in lots of difficult places. When central Asia opened up after the collapse of the Soviet Union, I recall running into stories of Turkish construction companies all over the place.)

What is surprising, however, is the reference to Bangladeshi laborers on the construction site. Unemployment in Iraq is horrifyingly high. I’m sure Bangladeshi labor is cheap, but wouldn’t the rebuilding of Iraq be helped by actually employing Iraqis in the rebuilding?

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