Where People Cannot Afford Their Country
Inter Press Service Dahr Jamail
and Harb Al-Mukhtar
*BAGHDAD, Dec 1 (IPS) - Despite the allocation of billions of dollars of U.S. government
money for "reconstruction", Iraqis are struggling to exist amidst soaring prices, unemployment, a devastated infrastructure,
and cuts in services.
Iraqis received a monthly food ration during the Oil for Food programme which was set
up to provide relief during the sanctions against Iraq up to the invasion in 2003. The head of each family was allotted monthly
food coupons for commodities like sugar, rice, tea, detergents, cooking oil, beans and baby milk.
But the U.S.-backed
governments, starting with the Iraqi Governing Council, have failed to consistently deliver the monthly food basket on time,
amidst an unemployment rate estimated at close to 70 percent.
Abu Ali, 66, worked until recently as a distributor
of the monthly food ration. "The Ministry of Trade used to give us sugar for the people," he said." But not any more. This
means we have to buy it from the market at twice the price just to achieve the same quantity. What will poor people do now
to get their sugar?"
Abu Mushtaq, a 40 year-old father of five lacks the money to buy products in the market, even
after receiving 120,000 Iraqi Dinars (roughly 85 dollars) monthly from the government to offset the shortfall in the food
"Everything has gone up in price so many times," Abu Mushtaq told IPS." Petrol, kerosene, even the price of
bread has gone up so many times since the invasion. The invaders only came to Iraq to fill up their own pockets."
recent influx of government money to offset the untimely delivery of food rations has raised the demand for particular items,
along with prices. This trend is disconcerting because the government's record of keeping food supplied is getting worse.
"The Ministry of Trade did not give sugar for the last seven months, nor rice for two months," Abu Ali said. "Nor
tea for four months, and no cooking oil for the last three months."
Meanwhile the market price of sugar has risen
25 percent, of rice 80 percent, tea 100 percent and cooking oil 50 percent.
Most homes in Baghdad get on average only
three hours of electricity supply per day, and Iraqis who can afford them use small generators. But petrol shortages and rationing
continue, with only 40-50 litres allowed per vehicle monthly.
The interim government is considering a five-fold increase
in petrol prices early next year.
The situation is being further complicated by attempts by some Iraqis to compensate
for the dramatic shifts in their economy. "Many landlords are raising rents two or three times the normal amount," said Abu
Ali. "This creates a bad spiral for everyone."
Hope also appears to be in short supply. "Anybody who tells you there
are plans for this is a liar," Abu Anas, who works in the Ministry of Trade told IPS. "The government is still interim, so
they cannot make plans, and they don't think that is their task. God help the Iraqi people."
Many analysts have blamed
the U.S. government squarely for this situation."The 'reconstruction' of Iraq is the largest American-led occupation programme
since the Marshall Plan (for reconstruction of Europe after the second world war)," analyst Ed Harriman wrote in the London
Review of Books. "But there is a difference: the U.S.. government funded the Marshall Plan whereas (defence secretary) Donald
Rumsfeld and (former administrator of Iraq) Paul Bremer have made sure that the reconstruction of Iraq is paid for by the
'liberated' country, by the Iraqis themselves."
According to Harriman's research, 6 billion dollars in assets were
left over from the UN Oil for Food programme, and revenue from resumed Iraqi oil exports brought another 10 billion dollars
in the year following the invasion.
Nevertheless, while the U.S. Congress voted to spend 18.4 billion dollars of U.S.
taxpayers' money in Iraq on 'reconstruction', Harriman says that "by 28 June last year, when Bremer left Baghdad two days
early to avoid possible attack on the way to the airport, his CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) had spent up to 20 billion
dollars of Iraqi money, compared to 300 million dollars of U.S. funds."
Allegations of fraud and theft have plagued
the occupiers of Iraq from the beginning. Auditors with the U.S. government are reported to have found serious problems.
auditors have so far referred more than a hundred contracts, involving billions of dollars paid to American personnel and
corporations, for investigation and possible criminal prosecution," writes Harriman.
"They have also discovered that
8.8 billion dollars that passed through the new Iraqi government ministries in Baghdad while Bremer was in charge is unaccounted
for, with little prospect of finding out where it went. A further 3.4 billion dollars earmarked by Congress for Iraqi development
has since been siphoned off to finance 'security'."
Iraq has oil and dollar wealth, but the people do not see it.
Allen L Roland is a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary
on his weblog http://blogs.salon.com/0002255/
and website www.allenroland.com
He also guest hosts a monthly national radio show TRUTHTALK on Conscious talk radio www.conscioustalk.net
The address of this page is:www.uruknet.info?p=18420
The incoming address of this article is: www.opednews.com/articles/opedne