Iraqi Economy in Travail
Ken Dilanian reports on the woes of the Iraqi economy. His general impression is that unemployment remains between 28 percent and 50 percent; that foreign investment is not coming in; that expatriate Iraqis are not investing; and that among the biggest setbacks was the stupid American decision to besiege Fallujah and attack Muqtada al-Sadr in April (Dilanian doesn’t put it that way, of course). Virtually the only bright spEot is that government employees have had pay raises and are buying consumer goods (though a lot of that money goes abroad).
I was driving in Florida last week, and someone had put the radio on a rightwing talk station. This glib announcer did a quick interview with some US official in Baghdad, and asked him leading questions about what great news it was that the Iraqi stock market had opened. He obviously had an ideological agenda and wasn’t actually interested in what Iraq is really like.
“Even the bright spots have a dark underside. Iraq’s stock exchange finally reopened in June, and the start of trading is heralded with the ringing of a small brass bell donated by the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, bearing the words, “Let Freedom Ring.” But exchange officials are so worried about security that they have scarcely publicized the reopening. Trading is two days a week, by appointment only. Armed guards keep out members of the public.”
My anecdote about the rightwing radio station in Florida sheds a little light on all those poll numbers showing that 45 percent of Americans still have an optimistic view of the situation in Iraq.
Henry T. Azzam makes some similar points, though he is mysteriously more upbeat about the stock market (trading is $10 million a day, which does not impress me.)
It seems obvious that the security situation is determining the economy, and nothing good can be expected until security is restored. That is, successful counter-insurgency will be everything.