China to build one thousand new schools in Iraq
There are currently around 3.2 million school-aged children in Iraq who are not in school, while the percentage of local children not in school is as high as 90 percent
By News Desk - June 20 2022

(Photo credit: Shafaq)

A ceremony was held on 18 June to commemorate a newly devised collaborative project between Baghdad and Beijing to construct one thousand schools in Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi attended the ceremony, and said that the two countries signed the contracts last December, ratifying the extensive educational project.

The deal, comprising 15 contracts, mark the first step within a wider agreement brokered in November 2021 for the construction of 7,000 further schools to be built throughout Iraq.

According to UNICEF, there are currently around 3.2 million school-age children in Iraq who are not in school, and in areas such as Diyala or Salah al-Din, the percentage of local children not in school is as high as 90 percent.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministry of Education expressed concern over whether the Kurdistan region would receive its share of the one thousand schools being built.

According to media reports, the KRG has been excluded from this recent arrangement.

China-Iraq energy cooperation has been the cornerstone of their bilateral relationship since 1981, when the China Petroleum Engineering and Construction Company commenced operations in Iraq.

Since then, Chinese companies have been heavily involved in several provinces in Iraq, one of the top suppliers of oil to China.

In October 2019, the two countries agreed on deals to bring in a number of Chinese infrastructural projects to Iraq in exchange for the sale of about 100,000 barrels of Iraqi oil.

China was one of the few global powers who openly opposed the 2003 Iraq war, calling for the withdrawal of all forces from the country.

Iraq is now an integral recipient of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

On 2 February, UK-based Middle East Eye (MEE) reported that in 2021, Iraq received more than $10.5 billion in investment from the BRI, making it the largest beneficiary in West Asia.

The report published in the MEE was compiled using data provided by the Green Finance & Development Center at Fudan University in Shanghai.

The majority of the investments are in energy related projects, such as the $5 billion Al-Khairat heavy oil power plant in Karbala province, and a natural gas project that will be undertaken by Chinese state-owned energy giant Sinopec in the Mansuriya gas field near the border with Iran.

A sizable chunk of the investment will be channeled towards the development of green energy projects in various parts of the country.

Alongside the one thousand schools across the country, Iraq and China are working together on the construction of an international airport in Nasiriyah. Baghdad will provide Beijing with oil products in exchange for the schools.

The report shows that during the same period that Iraq emerged as the third largest partner for Chinese energy products, it was only surpassed by Russia and Pakistan.

The report also indicates that China’s total investment in West Asia under the BRI has significantly increased between 2020 and 2021.

The increase was mostly driven by investments in the construction sector, which rose by 360 percent during the period under review.

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