June 12, 2014

Where could Iraq have been today if each one of its citizens was receiving his monthly oil dividend check?

Sir, I refer to your “The nightmare emerging from Iraq” June 12.

When you write “If Iraq is in the throes of sectarian break-up it is because the country has lost any sense of a national narrative, a shared story”, and I think of that “The Iraq Study Group” report of May 2006, prepared by the US Congress stated: “There are proposals to redistribute a portion of oil revenues directly to the population on a per capita basis. These proposals have the potential to give all Iraqi citizens a stake in the nation’s chief natural resource” I feel like crying.

Can you imagine what different scenario we might be confronting in Iraq were each Iraqi citizen monthly receiving a check as an oil dividend? Can you imagine what kind of example that would have given citizens of other oil-cursed nations, like Venezuela where the government gets directly over 97 percent or all the nation’s exports?

Yes the Iraq Study Group also said about that possibility “but it would take time to develop a fair distribution system.... There is no institution in Iraq at present that could properly implement such a distribution system. It would take substantial time to establish, and would have to be based on a well-developed state census and income tax system, which Iraq currently lacks.” But when compared to all other pains and resources wasted, that seems ex post honestly like the mother of all bland excuses.

And then today I received a copy of a letter signed by 58 Democrats calling for the US to sign up on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which is a global effort designed to increase accountability and openness in extractive industries… as if that could really move our curse needle in any fundamental way.

By pure coincidence this is part of an Op-Ed I published today in Caracas in El Universal

“During the week I went to one of those conferences where the well-intentioned try to solve your problems with the "resource curse." And that conference versed primarily over how the United States, by means of the Dodd-Frank Act, and the European Community, through laws on corporate transparency, seek to impose on their oil and mining companies strong information requirements regarding their relationship with governments.

My position was, as always: "That sounds very nice but truth be told that for someone who lives under the guise of a giant oil-curse like Venezuela’s, being able to know more about what happens in each specific contract, may be interesting, but could divert the attention from what is happening in general. "

If you really want to help, better published monthly, in a newspaper of global circulation, your best estimates as to the value of non-renewable natural resources extracted, per citizen, per month, represents in each of the various governments around the world. And then let the citizens ask.

I beg of you, do not cause our citizens to believe that you are making their work for them.

With respect to the war against this curse, it is useless for you to strive to make your companies behave with dignity, if we cannot make our governments behave with dignity"

PS. A YouTube “Please, while you leave Iraq