Baghdad: Iraq signed a final contract worth $7.75 billion with South Koreas Hanwha Engineering & Construction company to build 100,000 housing units on the outskirts of Baghdad as part of the government's plan to alleviate a severe housing shortage.
The project is part of a proposal by Iraq's National Investment Commission, announced in 2010, to build one million new housing units, valued at an average of $50,000 each, for a total value of $50 billion.
"This is the start, we hope it will be followed by other projects in different provinces ... to provide one million housing units as we promised," Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki said after a signing ceremony broadcast on state television.
Iraq faces an acute shortage of housing after years of war and sanctions and needs between 2 and 3 million new homes for its growing population, officials have said.
The housing shortage, crumbling infrastructure and daily power shortages are among the most pressing concerns for Iraqis and progress on the ground to address the problems has been slow even nine years after the US-led invasion.
Besides housing, Opec-member Iraq needs to invest to expand its vital oil sector, develop agriculture and lift power production to try to curb chronic shortages that force many to rely on generators.