Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Run, Don't Walk to the Nearest Exit

In the last couple of days, as the violence in Iraq has escalated, there have been several reports of the security situation improving. Somebody forgot to forward that memo to a major contractor responsible for rebuilding Iraq's transportation infrastructure.

Contrack International Inc. has reportedly become the first major US contractor to pull out of the reconstruction effort in Iraq (news - web sites), adding that high security costs were to blame.

"We reached a point where our costs were getting to be prohibitive," company president Karim Camel-Toueg told the Los Angeles Times.

Contrack, based in Arlington, Virginia, had won a 325-million-dollar award to rebuild Iraq's shattered transport system.

US officials said Contrack's decision to terminate work in Iraq was reached with the US government in November, but had not been publicly disclosed.

So, according to this report they were awarded the contract in March 2004. Since then things have gone so swimmingly that they've managed to refurbish a few train stations and do some site assessments and design work:

In the eight months Contrack was under contract in Iraq it was paid about 30 million dollars, mostly for site assessments and design work, company and US officials told the daily.

The Conrack partnership intended to build new roads, bridges and transportation terminals in Iraq, but only managed to refurbish a handful of train depots, company officials said.

Who is Contrack International Inc.?

Established in 1985, Contrack International Inc. is a privately owned U.S. business with headquarters in Arlington, Virginia and offices in Egypt, Israel and Qatar. The company receives international public works and defense projects financed by the U.S. government. Since 1990, Contrack has completed contracts totaling more than $467 million and is currently operating in Egypt, Qatar, Russia and Bahrain. In 1998, Orascom Construction Industries, the largest private construction firm in Egypt, acquired 45 percent of Contrack . Egyptian-businessman Naguib Sawiris, son of the founder of Orascom and a former board member, owns the controlling interest in Contrack, according to a trade publication. Sawiris, whose family is Egypt's answer to the Rockefellers, holds U.S. citizenship, which allows Contrack to be eligible for certain U.S. government financed projects. The two companies also have a non-compete agreement on U.S. government financed projects in Egypt.

In 1950, Onsi Sawiris, chairman of the board of Orascom, founded the company, which has now been restructured into three companies: Orascom Construction Industries, Orascom Projects & Touristic Development and Orascom Technologies. His three sons, Naguib, Nassef and Sameeh are involved in running the companies....

When asked for comment a spokesman for Contrack gave the following reply:
"Security? we don't need no steenking security. We're getting the hell out, now."

Well, that would have been the honest reply anyway.