Iraq - Business Becomes A Big Casualty
Date: Thursday, November 30 2006
Iraq - Business Becomes
A Big Casualty
By Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily
Inter Press Service
BAGHDAD (IPS) -- "Iraq got the foreign investment rules long sought by U.S. corporations," Antonia Juhasz, a visiting scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, and author of 'The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time' told IPS earlier.
Juhasz said the new laws, which were a part of the 100 'Bremer Orders' instituted by former U.S. administrator Paul Bremer when he headed the Coalition Provisional Authority during the first year of the occupation, provided a flood of benefits for U.S. companies.
These included "100 percent repatriation of profits earned in Iraq by foreign companies; 100 percent foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses, including banks; privatisation of Iraq's state owned enterprises; 100 percent immunity for U.S. contractors and soldiers from Iraq's laws; and 'national treatment' which allowed for Iraqis to be all but excluded from the reconstruction for years while the U.S. government paid 50 billion dollars to some 150 U.S. corporations for work in Iraq."
What followed was "a U.S. corporate invasion of Iraq," Juhasz said. "Many companies had their sights set on privatisation in Iraq, also made possible by Bremer, which helps explain their interest in 'major overhauls' rather than getting the systems up and running."
In contrast, there was much state support for businesses under the previous regime, which followed a socialist system under which the government allowed Iraqis to establish their own factories and workshops, and supported them in many ways.
Businesses were granted low interest loans and permission to transfer foreign currency. They could get state-owned land to build on. Administrative laws facilitated enterprise, and so small industry business bloomed during the 1970s and 1980s.
Major industries in Iraq for oil products, phosphates and cement, along with the military industry, were mostly state-run under the previous regime. Foreign companies were allowed, under state supervision, to build factories as Iraq moved towards increasing industrialisation.