Iraq's economy growing, slowly

Feb. 24, 2006 at 5:23 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The Iraqi economy has grown by about $5 billion in the last year, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Iraqi businesses and farms produced between $32 billion and $33 billion in goods and services in 2005. That is up from between $27 billion and $28 billion in 2004, which was roughly equivalent to Iraq's economy just prior to the U.S. invasion, said Dawn Liberi, director of USAID's Iraq mission.

Personal annual income increased from an average of $500 per capita when the U.S. invaded in 2003 to $1,500 per capita, Liberi said Friday at the National Press Club.

The average income in Iraq in 1980 was $3,600, the United Nations and the World Bank reported in 2003. By 2001 -- after 10 years of war with Iran, the invasion off Kuwait and t he subsequent economic sanctions that severely restricted foreign investment and oil exports -- average income fell to between $770 and $1,020 per person. Income figures continued to decline through the war.

USAID has established a business registry and according to Liberi 30,000 new businesses have registered in the last six months. New businesses are registered at a rate of about 2,000 a month.

"We are very hopeful that the economy is picking up and will continue to pick up," Liberi said.

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