Oct 6, 2003
A new decree was issued on September 20 by Paul Bremer, the U.S. Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, and by the finance minister of the Iraqi Governing Council, the body created by Bremer to endorse the dictates of Washington.
Essentially, this decree opens the nationalized sector of the economy – by far its largest part – to the predatory appetites of private capital, especially to the imperialist corporations. On paper at least, practically all Iraqi companies, public or private, can now be acquired by anyone who has the means to do so.
This decree sets no limits at all on how much someone can own. Neither are there any requirements that they must reinvest some of what they get back into Iraq, nor that they have to give any priority to Iraqi suppliers. Even the taxes they will have to pay are set remarkably low: just 5% on imported products, and 15% on their profits.
It's obvious that the pretext used to justify this decree – namely, that it would help ensure the rebuilding of Iraq – is a hypocritical lie. If there are imperialist groups ready to purchase (at low prices, of course) local Iraqi companies, it will be to exploit the Iraqi economy and its riches, and in the final analysis, the population. If they buy up these companies, it will be to take as much wealth as they can out of Iraq – to safer places. That's why there's no requirement that they invest even a tiny part in the rebuilding of Iraq.
In reality, this decree is more a political statement than anything else. Today there is no rush of imperialist corporations banging on the door to invest in Iraq nor even to acquire existing companies, not even with the reduction of taxes and restrictions. The political and military situation is already too unstable, making the risk too high. And the situation is deteriorating further. At most, these big companies are ready to provide services to the military, without putting at risk their own capital. For this, they are extremely well paid by Washington and London from the funds that were confiscated in Iraq. The American company Halliburton, for example, was hired to maintain the oil fields; while the Societe General was called in to manage the Commercial Bank of Iraq when it was created by the American authorities last April.
On the other hand, this decree is probably designed to induce some of the Iraqi upper classes, who have lived for such a long time as parasites on the state-controlled economy, to support privatization, encouraging them to acquire a piece of the official state pie. Already a number of the wealthiest families – tied closely to the old Saddam Hussein regime – have begun to win contracts and position themselves to bid on some of these companies. Even if the first to buy up the nationalized industries are Iraqis, this can start an irreversible process that will make it easier for the corporations to take over the most advantageous sectors of the economy later on.
Even if this decree remains mostly symbolic at this stage, it nonetheless marks the true objectives of the U.S. occupation. It announces, in the most cynical fashion, the prize that the imperialist leaders intend to offer to their corporations at the expense of the Iraqi population.