The eagerness with which many countries
seek to participate in the reconstruction
of Iraq is not surprising. The United
States, many are saying, should have no
monopoly in this work to restore a decent
life to a shattered society.
Those who provided forces actively involved
in the campaign of war - Britain and Australia
- should now have their share in the campaign
of peace; but France, Germany and Russia
demand their rights too.
These "rights" may be no more
than decently packaged to mean "rights"
to extend a generous helping hand to a
distressed people. However, the thinly
disguised or not-at-all-disguised purpose
of the American, British, Australian,
French, German, Russian and other governments
might well be to get a slice of the alluring
"contracts" that the reconstruction
of the devastated Iraqi economy will entail.
These contracts can fairly be expected
to be valued at some billions of dollars.
A wide range of Iraqi social and economic
infrastructure will have to be restored.
Perhaps even, beyond infrastructure and
even beyond the oil industry, the productive
economy and the banking and financial
institutions of the country will need
reconstruction, rejuvenation or even creation
The prospects for enterprises around
the world - of necessity, more particularly
from the more economically developed world
- to get a slice of this rich, marbled
and thickly iced cake set mouths watering
in many well-panelled boardrooms in many
countries. This is particularly so at
a time when few economies, developed or
developing, are doing well; and the world's
three largest economies - the United States,
Japan and Germany - are all skirting the
edge of recession.
We can still not be certain - no one
really knows - where the money to fund
this comprehensive Iraqi reconstruction
will come from. Contrary to some earlier
assumptions, it is clear now that Iraq
and its oil resources will not be able
to bear the burden of its own reconstruction.
It is a debt-oppressed economy in critical
need of financial aid even to cover its
day-to-day consumer needs.
The governments eager to participate
in the reconstruction nevertheless expect
that they will not have to finance the
"contracts" that are allocated
to them. They expect that funds will come
from somewhere to finance their enterprises
of reconstruction and to fund the profits
and employment of their own people that
These funds might come from international
agencies, perhaps from the United Nations
and, more particularly, from the World
Bank and the International Monetary Fund
which have already been turning their
minds to ways in which they might help.
In the end, those ways will be determined,
as the Head of the World Bank has been
emphasising, by the member countries,
more particularly by the United States
who, in the weighted system of voting
of both institutions, dominate both the
Bank and Fund. Over many years, the IMF,
with the close collaboration of the United
States Treasury, has been able to conjure
tens of billions of dollars, seemingly
out of the air, to enable a wide range
of countries, especially in Eastern Europe,
Latin America and Asia, to "protect"
the assets of foreign investors.
If the United States Treasury is so disposed,
billions of dollars might now be conjured
up to finance the reconstruction of Iraq.
This will almost certainly mean that the
funds will be applied to benefit United
States enterprises, but some diplomatic
horse-trading within the Bank and Fund
boards will almost certainly ensure some
substantial "trickle-down" to
other countries, perhaps even Britain
and Australia - or France, Germany and
Whichever way it goes, there is likely
to be a good deal of enthusiastic, self-interested
pressure for the reconstruction of Iraq,
perhaps the thoroughgoing, comprehensive
reconstruction on a well-planned, cooperative
international basis that is desirable.
Such a program would help a poor, devastated,
deeply distressed country at the same
time as it would help growth and recovery
in the mostly rich, supplying countries.
Some of the jobless would be employed.
More resources would be available to care
for those still without jobs. Gradually
all of the jobless would be brought back
into the workforce and those living in
poverty would enjoy more comfortable levels