Baghdad repairs kindle guarded optimism

STORY: In this Baghdad neigborhood, roads are being ripped up to make way for a new sewage and water system.

It’s part of what locals say is a much-needed makeover after years of conflict and government neglect.

Similar scenes have played out across the city, the result of a push by Prime Minister Mohamammed Shia al-Sudani’s new government to improve basic services for citizens.

On the list are improvements to roads, bridges and sidewalks, as well as removing some security checkpoints that held up traffic.

The government also aims to clean up the facades of buildings and revamp parks and promenades along the Tigris River - the main one being Abu Nawas park.

It is a very beautiful and wonderful reconstruction campaign, says park-goer Muhannad Saleh. The people of Baghdad have been waiting a long time for this.

But impediments still remain.

Though the park is bringing in throngs of visitors, the river itself is chock-full of sewage and trash.

Ammar Musa Kazem is Baghdad's mayor.

He says the current works are just the start and some $400 million (530 billion dinars) that had been allocated to the city through a 2022 emergency food law should pass soon.

In more than two-dozen interviews, Iraqis said they felt guarded optimism about the future due to the infrastructure improvements and recent stability.

Many said the changes were the most significant they’ve seen since the 2003 U.S. invasion... but still fell short in a state that made more than $115 billion from oil sales in 2022 and suffers from rampant corruption that cripples services.