Monday, August 01, 2005

Baghdad neighborhood shows signs of recovery

"Along Market Street in the Abu Dschir area of south Baghdad, shop owners are open for business.Appearing at times more like a promenade with long pedestrian walkways, the old dilapidated stucco shops are set far back from the street. Color-tiled planters line the meridian and separate oncoming traffic. Snarled power lines, propped in some places by leaning poles, bring electricity to these same shops.In the heat of mid-day, Iraqis gather from the surrounding neighborhoods. They are not surprised to find new appliances for sale, along with household wares and tools...Next door is a display of pre-paid cell phones, while outside against the curb a fruit stand offers dates, watermelon, apples and grapes from the agricultural sector of Arab Jobour...Across the street and below a wide billboard, where a woman is shown modeling a bridal gown, a man in a traditional white robe sits on a stool sipping a smoothie, blended from this same locally grown fruit. This is one of the more economically-challenged neighborhoods, or "muhallas," that make up Al Rasheed.... After a decade of sanctions, the economic affects on the country are still evident and are well documented. But often overlooked, with the media focus on large-scale reconstruction projects, is a smaller revolution of commerce that is taking place in the neighborhoods around Baghdad. With the toppling of the regime also went the command economy. Most Iraqis had adjusted to the dramatic decline in goods and services offered during this era. But a dual economy, which has all but disappeared in the last two years since the Central Bank began printing the new dinar, has dramatically shrunk the black-market which existed for years. ............According to one U.S. contractor working as an interpreter and who also holds a Masters Degree in Political Economy, "This was a situation that resulted in an abnormal economy, there was no organized balance of revenue and inflation made it nearly impossible to purchase even the most basic goods.".........More than a year ago, the U.S. Army, with the help of local contractors, helped construct nearly 168 market stalls which could be used for commercial and retail purposes. But in a country where the tradition of the bazaar has been around for more than 1,000 years, it is slow to convince merchants to back away from the street where they are familiar and comfortable doing business, even if it is for their own safety as well as that of multinational forces."....Click title for the rest of the story.


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