Iraqis angry as billions fail to fix public works

Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:12am GMT

By Maria Golovnina and Khalid al-Ansary

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An air of decay hangs heavily among the gutted facades leaning over into al-Rasheed street, Baghdad's oldest merchant street, strewn with heaps of trash and broken concrete.

Violence may be fading compared with the dark days of sectarian carnage two years ago, and a series of oilfield development deals already signed and gas field tenders up for auction this week hold the promise of prosperity.

But behind the crumbling walls of their homes, life for Iraqis is still a daily struggle.

After years of war and neglect, clean water and electricity remain scarce, sewage pipes often overflow into streets, and access to good healthcare is limited.

The failure of Iraqi leaders to form a new government seven months after an election has fuelled public exasperation at a time when many expect the authorities to focus less on security and more on improving basic services.

Shihab Ahmed Khammas, who runs a tailor shop on bustling al-Rasheed street, said people are beginning to lose patience.

"The government is too busy with other things. Some buildings have collapsed because of neglect," he said.

Patting stacks of English tweed inside his little shop, located in the heart of Baghdad's once-affluent merchant district, he said the basement of the building remained flooded as underground water kept gushing through the walls.   Continued...

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