By Emad MekayInter Press Service
April 30, 2003
President George W Bush's administration is aggressively appointing a series of former private sector executives to run the Iraqi economy, prompting warnings that it will impose dubious free market policies on Baghdad and open the oil-rich nation further to US business interests. Last week, Agriculture Secretary Ann M Veneman appointed agricultural industrialist Dan Amstutz "to lead the US government's agriculture reconstruction efforts in Iraq". Amstutz, who spent most of his professional life working for the US agriculture industry and lobbying for its interests, will serve as senior ministry advisor for agriculture and will coordinate US government activities in the sector.
The businessman also worked for Cargill, the largest privately-owned corporation in the world and the third largest food processor on the globe. It controls a large portion of US grain exports and is a leading promoter of genetically modified food and new farming technology. Also last week, US Treasury Secretary John Snow appointed the two officials who will coordinate the economic rebuilding of Iraq. Peter McPherson, a long-time Washington insider who was deputy US treasurer in the Ronald Reagan administration in the late 1980s, will be financial coordinator for the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA). McPherson was also the group executive vice president of Bank of America. His deputy in Iraq will be George Wolfe, a senior US Treasury Department lawyer and a strong loyalist of the department's foreign policies.
Both men will work to reorganize the Iraqi finance ministry, the central bank and the banking system. "It's very much like the Bush administration itself - a bunch of private sector alumni called upon to perform the task in government they were performing in the private sector," said Doug Henwood editor of the Left Business Observer, about the list of new administrators in Iraq. "They are going to have a whole country to play with now," he told Inter Press Service. The Treasury Department is known as a strong backer of the free market policies imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on developing nations, and is highly likely to push for identical policies on the occupied Arab nation. Corporations have longed backed policies of economic liberalization as they help ensure the free movement of their products and investments around the globe.
It has also been reported that the Bush administration has picked Philip Carroll, former chief executive of the US division of oil giant Royal Dutch-Shell, to lead the management team of the lucrative Iraqi oil industry. The administration is reportedly planning to remodel the industry to function more like a US oil corporation, with a chairperson, chief executive and a 15-member board of international advisers. Such appointments complement the appointment of retired army general Jay Garner to the post of head of the ORHA. Garner is known for links to the international arms industry and is controversial in the Arab world, where he is seen as a staunch advocate of Israel's harsh military crackdown on the Palestinians in the occupied territories. After retiring from the army, Garner became president of SY Coleman, a defense contractor specializing in military defense technology.
Washington has repeatedly denied any imperial ambitions in the Middle East region but said that the new appointments will further its efforts to create a "democratic, market driven economy in Iraq", especially because many of the experts come from the private sector. Washington also plans to send more officials to help rebuild the Iraqi political system, restart key government agencies and restore many sectors of the economy. But such appointments have drawn fire from some critics, who say that Washington is trying to recreate Iraq in its own image, and warn that the administration's tactics could backfire.
For example, the appointment of Amstutz could commercialize the reconstruction of Iraq and threaten the country's agriculture sector, which was the only thread that kept some 26 million Iraqis from falling into all-out famine under 12 years of suffocating UN sanctions, says international charity and development group Oxfam. As Cargill vice president, Amstutz drafted the original text of the current Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture within the World Trade Organization, considered by many developing countries and pro-development groups as innately unjust. The agreement allows rich countries to dump their subsidy-backed agricultural surpluses on world markets, depressing prices to levels at which producers in developing nations can no longer compete.
Oxfam policy director Kevin Watkins told Britain's Guardian newspaper on Monday that "putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission". On Carroll's appointment, oil analyst Michael Renner of the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute said that the move might be intended to boost plans to privatize the Iraqi oil industry, without consulting the Iraqi people. "There's no shortage of Iraqis who know how to run the oil industry, so why exactly do you need someone like Carroll?" he asked in an interview. "It's likely that Iraqi oil is headed toward de facto privatization - a scheme that puts real control in the hands of the oil multinationals." Henwood agreed. "They are very eager to privatize the Iraqi oil industry and would like to, I am sure, privatize the rest of the Middle Eastern oil industry," he said.
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