On June 30th, the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq will hand over political authority to an Iraqi interim government. But Iraqis are already beginning to take charge. Several government agencies, including the Ministries of Health, Industry, and Water Resources are now being administered by Iraqis.
The Ministry of Water Resources’ 2004 budget is one-hundred-fifty million dollars, in comparison with just one million dollars under Saddam Hussein. The Ministry is slated to begin a program to modernize the management of Iraq’s water system. The ministry will also continue its work clearing irrigation canals and re-flooding the enormous marshlands in southern Iraq that were drained by order of Saddam Hussein. "Without these canals, much of Iraq's agriculture would literally dry up and blow away, taking with it twenty percent of Iraq's economy," said coalition administrator Paul Bremer. The irrigation program will employ approximately one-hundred thousand of Iraq’s unskilled workers.
The hand-over of Iraq’s water ministry is another milestone on the path to full Iraqi sovereignty. That path, said Mr. Bremer, leads to June 30th, when the Coalition Provisional Authority will be dissolved and a government composed of Iraqis takes over:
“One of that government’s most important tasks will be to prepare for elections next January -- Iraq’s first free national elections. Those January elections will elect a national assembly. And that assembly will serve not only as a legislature, but it will also write Iraq’s permanent constitution. That constitution, the first written by Iraqis and approved by a national referendum, will serve as the basis for Iraq’s future governments. The constitution will embrace individual rights for all and equal treatment before the law. It will do so because the Iraqi people will accept no less.”
“These historic changes,” says President George W. Bush, “are sending a message across the region from Damascus to Tehran. Freedom is the future of every nation. The Iraqi people are achieving great things and serving and sacrificing for their own future. They’re building a country that is strong and free.”