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U.S. Plans To Reshape the Iraqi Economy
O n May 1, 2003 the Wall Street Journal reported that the Bush administration has “drafted sweeping plans to remake Iraq’s economy in the U.S. image.” According to this report, the U.S. is planning to privatize state-owned enterprises, create a modernized Baghdad stock exchange, a reformed central bank, and rewrite the tariff and tax code systems. The plan was officially released on June 6. “Economic Recovery, Reform and Sustained Growth in Iraq” is the USAID request for proposals (RFP) for “economic governance” work during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and it makes clear what the United States has planned for the future of Iraq.
This document, which outlines work in Iraq beginning this past summer and running through 2006, is important for several reasons. First, it continues the trend in recent USAID RFPs for work supporting the U.S. occupation by “limiting competition” to only ten firms. The firms eligible to apply for this contract are: Bearing Point; Booz, Allen and Hamilton; Nathan; IBM Global Services; Development Alternatives, Inc.; Carana; Abt Associates; Chemonics; Deloitte & Touche; and Financial Markets International, Inc. The Journal reported that at least part of the work is expected to be given to Bearing Point, formally KPMG, which was recently awarded a similar $40 million three-year USAID contract for the financial, legal, and regulatory reconstruction of Afghanistan.
The RFP is also important because it contradicts stated U.S. policy in Iraq. The refrain from occupation leadership has been that an elected Iraqi government will make decisions regarding the future of the Iraqi economy, but the timelines laid out in the RFP make this impossible. One example of this is the new Iraqi currency. Accused of attempting to “dollarize” the Iraqi economy, the U.S. has pumped over $400 million into the Iraqi economy while repeatedly assuring critics that an elected Iraqi authority will decide the future of Iraqi monetary policy. Yet, the RFP calls for the contractor to “prepare a currency, and organize and carry out an extremely rapid and thorough exchange of currencies, eliminating the current currency and substituting a replacement currency designed and prepared and produced in large quantities to a very high standard of excellence. The currency exchange is to be carried out effectively and simultaneously throughout Iraq. Old currency units are to be collected and destroyed.” According to the RFP, the design and planning for the new Iraqi currency is to be completed by October 2003 and its introduction is planned for January 2004. Given that L. Paul Bremer recently postponed indefinitely the creation of a representative Iraqi government, it is difficult to believe that this process will be lead by, much less advised by, elected Iraqi leadership.
Similarly, plans for the privatization of Iraqi state-owned enterprises and commercial banks is covered by the RFP. As reported in the Financial Times , the planning for this privatization began on June 8, despite similar promises that this process would be led by an Iraqi government. Timothy Carney, U.S. advisor to the Industry Ministry, claimed, “The need for foreign investment in the economy is too great to delay.” The comprehensive privatization program is made up of two parts—the Mass Privatization Program and the Strategic Investor Sales. In the first year of this plan (begun this August) Iraqi industries will be identified for consolidation, liquidation, and privatization and new Iraqi laws will be drawn up to make these plans legal. The privatization of selected Iraqi industries is then scheduled to take place over the next two years. While the establishment of an Iraqi government has been put on hold, the selling off of Iraqi resources seems to be right on schedule.
The RFP goes on to outline plans to “rationalize” and “modernize” the Iraqi banking and financial sectors, create taxation, legal and regulatory regimes to facilitate this process, along with the further integration of Iraq into international economic networks. It also calls for a public relations campaign to sell these fundamental changes to the Iraqi people. It is clear that the U.S. views these changes as the spoils of war. The document explains rather understatedly, “it should be clearly understood that the efforts undertaken will be designed to establish the basic legal framework for a functioning market economy; taking appropriate advantages of the unique opportunity for rapid progress in this area presented by the current configuration of political circumstances.”
This plan calls into question the common critique of the U.S. occupation of Iraq as unfocused and disorganized. Rather, it clearly demonstrates U.S. priorities and goals in Iraq along with their plans to actualize them. What remains unclear is whether ongoing Iraqi resistance and worldwide protest of U.S. power will derail these plans.
Adam Horowitz is an activist and student in New York City.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.