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LAS AMERICAS The Real Looting Begins BY GABRIELA BOCAGRANDE o w that the Iraq invasion is complete, we can all breathe a short sigh of relief and settle down to wait for the price of oil to 416. drop. Except for the Iraqis, who, unfortunately for them, are just waking up to their new post-conflict country, so recently demolished by the Coalition of the Willing. And we do mean demolished. After exterminating random civilian clusters, the Coalition was willing to bomb the electricity grid, blow up water systems, dynamite roads and bridges and leave the surviving population without such niceties of modern life as illumination, taps and toilets. This will soon be fixed by the Juntaof-the-Promoters-of-Sustainable-Development-with Equity-Efficiency-and-Freedom. We are talking about, of course, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which, in keeping with their long tradition of charitable giving, recently pronounced themselves available to support the reconstruction of Iraq as soon as the United States Treasury Department can rig up the necessary protocols. The World Bank, as you know, has a history of reconstruction and considerable expertise in this field. The crack team of conflict experts at the Bank has observed that war leads to a: “Collapse of the state’s ability to function for extended periods, widespread conflict-related destruction or neglect of infrastructure, and diminished state and civil society capacity to meet reconstruction needs.” Yes indeed. This mess, however, will be addressed shortly by the Bank and the Fund working with development and humanitarian agencies, government authorities \(as soon as the most ingratiating contestants can be selectentities that have complementary mandates and common concerns.” Question: Complementary and common to what? Answer: To the World Bank’s “development” goals, which include, primarily, market penetrating and income concentrating through the creation of an attractive and healthy business investment climate. As we are all aware by now, private investment spurs economic growth, which provides jobs, which leads, in turn, to prosperity, appropriate cultural attitudes, and widespread enthusiasm for meaningless and diversionary political floor shows. In compliance with this plan, the Heritage Foundation, a think tank frequently consulted by the Bush administration, has developed a quasi-official blueprint for post-conflict Iraq: The new post-Saddam federal government should: develop a modern legal system that recognizes property rights and is conducive to privatization; create a public information campaign that prepares the people for structural reforms and privatization; hire expatriates and Western-educated Arabic speakers with financial, legal, and business expertise for key economic positions; deregulate prices, including prices in the utility and energy sectors; prepare state assets in the utility, transportation, pipeline, energy, and other sectors for privatization \(psssst, this means inflation, taxes, and tariffs low; liberalize and expand trade; and launch an effort to join the World Trade So there you have it. As a result, we were not surprised to find Bechtel leading the pack into the reconstruction effort with a $680-million contract from the U.S. government over 18 months, awarded through a bidding process limited to a favorite few U.S. monolithic corporations and sweetened with taxpayer-backed guarantees so the company assumes no risk. And we can soon expect to see the customary clique of engineering corporations lining up to make generous withdrawals from the World Bank and the IMF Post-Conflict Fund. Clearly, the funds will go directly to the likes of Halliburton, Fluor, Bechtel, and AES to rebuild and operate the electricity and water systems because there will be no functioning government to handle them instead. Iraq can become the new model for privatized services, an example to be used by the Bank and the Fund as they pry open Third World markets in services ahead of the coming trade agreements. Admittedly, the Iraq Attack was a fairly dramatic way to restructure the public sector, strip state assets and privatize services, three of the U.S. Treasury and Commerce Departments’ and the World Bank’s primary aspira 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5/9/03