Wednesday, July 14, 2004

...A New "Free" Iraq - 2

Freedom - specially, one which is "imposed" - has a cost!!!
Engines of Industry Sputtering in Iraq
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, July 10, 2004; Page A14

BAGHDAD -- Once a month for the past year, Essam Awada, 28, went to work to pick up his pay. The genial warehouse foreman would sit around with the other guys at the water tank factory, tell a few Saddam jokes, and they would get their money and go home. But now, he said, he doesn't bother. A neighbor brings him his pay.

"They told us not to even come in. There's no work," Awada said, shrugging.

A friend, Mohammad Armut, is an aircraft engineer. He used to work on the Iraqi military's Russian fighters. But there are no more military planes, no civilian airline and no work for him. Armut, like other workers, got a raise when the Americans took over. He gets a check every month for doing nothing....

...Fifteen months after the U.S. occupation began, with its ambitious goals of converting Iraq into a free-market model for the Middle East, the wheels of Iraq's daily economy are barely turning.

Little reconstruction is evident. Bombed or looted buildings remain vacant shells. Factories remain still, idled by lack of electricity, the absence of a market and a shortage of raw materials, equipment parts and motivation. U.S. plans to privatize Iraq's antiquated government-run industries fell flat. Iraqi officials say their American supervisors came, surveyed the problems and left.

"The Americans came in thinking it would be a picnic," said Hachim Hasani, the new minister of industry and minerals. "They were misled."...

...The problem, he said, is that the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority arbitrarily doubled salaries to reduce unrest when it took over in April 2003. That huge increase in operating costs makes the company's wool blankets, tents and clothing much more expensive than imports.

"We can't sell our products on the local market. Our prices are too high," Barrak said. "It's good to have better salaries for our workers. People need to feed their families. But it's a disaster for the company."

With the product piling up unsold in warehouses, "we will pay out so much, the company will become zero," he said....

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