Last month I urged a massive program of subsidized jobs to assist the dangerously large number of unemployed Iraqis. Whether it was a result of my plea or not, it seems US authorities are moving in that direction.
The Washington Post describes the effort as a “massive public works program, a sort of New Deal for Iraq. The occupation authority, the U.S. military and Iraqi ministries are hiring hundreds of thousands of people to sweep streets, landscape parks, fix traffic lights, erase graffiti, repair schools, libraries and other public buildings and work on other reconstruction projects. The funding comes from the billions of dollars of aid money donated by a number of countries.”
It appears pragmatism and immediate needs have won out over free-market ideology– at least for now.
When occupation officials arrived in Iraq after the war, ready to turn the country into a model for capitalism in the Middle East, they expected private companies to tackle the bulk of reconstruction — and to hire the necessary workers. But months of violence have largely kept the private sector out of the country. With unemployment in Iraq estimated at 30 to 70 percent, the occupation authority is scrambling to create jobs. The success of the occupation, many officials now say, hinges as much on keeping Iraqis employed as on fixing and building things.