“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Monday, June 23, 2003


Casualty report today: At the bottom of a report on the blowing up of another oil pipeline near Hit, there was this tossoff: "Also near Hit, U.S. soldiers Saturday evening opened fire on a car that failed to stop at a checkpoint, killing one Iraqi and wounding another, said Kievenaar. The troops fired warning shots first, he said."

Another oil pipeline going into Syria was blown up today. A report on the situation in Oil and Gas News is a bit more dire than what we are reading in the regular newspapers:

"NICOSIA, June 23 -- Even as Iraq began loading its first oil for export in 3 months on Sunday, saboteurs blasted an Iraqi natural gas pipeline at Hit on Sunday and another oil pipeline early Monday near the border with Syria, raising more doubts about US-led efforts to get the country's petroleum industry back to full operation.

"People are questioning if Iraq can sustain exports in the foreseeable future unless the security situation improves dramatically," said Steve Turner of investment bank Commerzbank. "The explosions illustrate the problems of maintaining security on very long pipelines."

The 880 km Syrian pipeline is Iraq's second largest cross-border export link after the 965 km Kirkuk-Ceyhan line. The US stopped 200,000 b/d of oil from transiting the Syrian pipeline after bombing a pumping station during its invasion of Iraq in April."

But the main casualty of the day --well, it is an on-going wounding -- is Iraq's autonomy. J-Lo Bremer has decided that, as an unelected conqueror with no knowledge of the place, he is the perfect person to remake the economy. Here's what he had to say to an economics forum:

"He made it clear that he wanted to start privatizing more than 40 government-owned companies that make products ranging from packaged foods to steel. Many of those companies, he acknowledged, would not be able to survive in the face of real competition.

"A fundamental component of this process will be to force state-owned enterprises to face hard budget constraints by reducing subsidies and special deals," he said. "Iraq will no doubt find that opening its borders to trade and investment will increase competitive pressure on its domestic firms and thereby raise productivity."

Senior officials in the American-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which Mr. Bremer heads, have said they hope to agree on a plan in the next few weeks to sell state-owned companies to private investors. But they are vague about how quickly the process should proceed, acknowledging that new owners would almost certainly slash the work forces at many companies and that some companies would not survive."

Of course, since the Iraqis are, on the word of Time magazine itself, a collection of abused children, they might make some kindergartenish protest along the lines of "no economic re-organization that increases unemployment without representation." A little baulkier than the slogans of the Tea Party group in 1775, but these are more complicated times.

Iraqis might want to view the wonders of free enterprise by gazing at Argentina, about which the NYT had another article. Right now, there's a little dispute with the IMF about mortgages:

"So nearly a year ago, at the peak of the crisis, the Argentine Congress approved a bill that suspended mortgage foreclosures for 90 days on homes that were a family's "sole and permanent residence." That law has since been renewed three times, but will expire in August unless Congress extends it again.

It has, however, brought the Argentine government into conflict with the I.M.F., whose managing director, Horst Kohler, is scheduled to arrive here Monday for a two-day visit. Though Argentina now has a budget surplus and has taken numerous other steps urged by the I.M.F., government officials say that the fund is insisting that the freeze on foreclosures be lifted as a pre-condition for any comprehensive agreement.

In January, the fund agreed to reschedule payment of nearly $7 billion that it was owed by Argentina. But that accord expires in August, around the same time as the mortgage foreclosure bill. The new president here, N�stor Kirchner, who took office late last month, wants to negotiate a long-term agreement with the fund that would restore credit lines and bring back the foreign investors who fled the country when the economy imploded."

The IMF, like the Cosa Nostra, and like, apparently, the US authority in Iraq, believes a little pain, or a lot of pain, distributed to a lot of little people, can't help but be a good thing. The theft of value from the Argentine working and middle class is not unprecedented, but it does look rather ominous. As we approach the largest budget deficit in our history, it is good to know that we are trying to keep competing deficits to a minimum. Apparently, this is the Bremer plan for Iraq.

Bremer is softening it by advocating a Norwegian style share-the-oil-wealth plan. This sounds great. But it is, of course, the kind of plan that the Iraqis themselves should consider, and adapt or not, as they see fit. The occupation of Iraq should aim at minimal goals -- getting the Iraqi social structures up, getting a government going, avoiding factional fighting. That US soldiers, and Iraqis, are going to die for Bremer's economic restructuring is obscene.

No comments: