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1/12/04 - IMPROVING IRAQ’S ECONOMY - 2004-01-12

The Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, with its socialist policies, destroyed the Iraqi economy through mismanagement, corruption, cronyism, war, and massive debt. After 1989, the Iraqi Gross Domestic Product declined by almost two-thirds. That decline coincided with a similar drop in the standard of living of the average Iraqi.

The U.S.-led coalition is working with local communities in Iraq to promote private business opportunities. Iraqis are getting a new currency. And for the first time, the Central Bank will be an independent institution.

Kamel Al-Gailani is Iraq’s acting minister of finance. He wrote in The Wall Street Journal newspaper that “The best way to improve the lives of the Iraqi people is to unleash the potential of the Iraqis.” The new Iraq, said Mr. Al-Gailani, “will have an open and free market economy characterized by good governance, equality of opportunity, transparency, accountability and the rule of law.”

Some Iraqis fear that they will be at a disadvantage in such a system. But Kamel al-Gailani says the new Iraqi government plans “to help the Iraqi people weather the adjustment through programs of employment, generation, retraining, and a social safety net for the most vulnerable.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says that Iraqis are already making significant progress:

“Ever-increasing numbers of Iraqis are involved in their own security, and Iraqis, now totaling something in excess of one-hundred-sixty-thousand Iraqis now make up by far the largest component of the security forces in Iraq.”

The U.S.-led coalition is working to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people. If all goes as planned, an interim elected Iraqi government will be in place by the middle of 2004. A new Iraqi economy will play a major role in Iraq’s recovery.