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Re: Cash component - comment

It is useful to understand how isolated Iraq has been, and not just in the
last 10 years. I made my first visit in 1979, shortly after Saddam had
consolidated power. Until 1978, the files of the company for whom I then
worked were littered with notes on the impossibility of obtaining visas and
making any kind of contact with those in authority. The country had been
kept closed since the revolutions of the 1950s. I found a people dominated
by State organisations. Even those with ostensible authority, such as the
General Manager of the National Insurance Company, had minimal power, and
quite trivial issues could only be decided at Ministerial level. This
situation remains until today, so that the average Iraqi has been brought
up without any possibility of thinking for himself or taking responsibility
in a way which the average Westerner assumes is normal.

Lifting sanctions and opening trade relations will be only a small
beginning, since trade with Iraqi State importing organisations cannot be
described as "normal". For many years, all imports have been in the hands
of no more than half a dozen State enterprises, primarily:

the State Trading Enterprise for Foodstuff
the Iraqi Grain Board
the State Enterprise for Steel and Timber
the State Enterprise for Construction Materials
the Southern Oil Company

It will take a lot more to open the country and persuade the people to take
even the smallest element of power back into their own hands. The one
encouragement I have is that the close Tikriti family members have gained a
taste for big money making and so we may see some glorious capitalist
tendencies in the near future. This may not be quite what everyone has in
mind, but typically it opens the door a fraction for the man in the street
to try his own hand at making business. The process of change then becomes
more difficult to stop. Right now, it does not pay to be ostentatious, even
if you are amongst the small minority who can still live comfortably.
Saddam and his cohorts frequently demand and take things which catch their
fancy, eg a new car. Apparently it is impossible to stop, although on
occasion a limited amount of "compensation" appears - you might get a
Toyota to replace a BMW.

Registering a private company is a difficult and time consuming affair.

Seen in this light, sanctions have been a very useful weapon for Saddam to
maintain control.


Mark Galloway

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