The robbery of Iraq's national assets was formally legalised last Sunday. The American-appointed Iraqi National Council has opened up all sectors of the economy to foreign investors. From now on, all the strategic sectors of the economy can be sold off completely to foreign buyers.
Under Saddam Hussein, Iraqi companies and real estate could not be bought by foreigners. Tax rates on profits were 45%. Now the situation has turned completely the other way. It will be possible to have100 per cent foreign and direct ownership in all sectors, except for natural resources. To make matters worse, the new rules will allow for full and immediate remittance of the investors' profits, dividends, interest and royalties back to their countries of origin. Until the end of this year, if you are a (US) multinational investing in Iraq, you will also get a nice tax holiday, i.e. you won't have to pay any taxes at all. Next year, when profits will start to be taxed you will only have to pay 15%. Thatcher used to be fond of saying that there is no such thing as a "free lunch". That was obviously referring to workers asking for decent wages and social services. It seems that if you are a robber baron, invading someone else's country then a free lunch does indeed exist.
As if that were not enough trade tariffs are also to be slashed. This is to show, according to the so-called "Iraqi government", that Iraq is a "country that embraces free trade". At the same time the Coalition Provisional Authority has decided to immediately set new taxes on fuel and food, and from the beginning of the new year a new tax on income (of 15%) will be imposed on every Iraqi citizen. Thus ordinary, poor, working Iraqis will pay the same level of tax as the super-rich, fat cat capitalists! From this, it is clear who is going to pay for the reconstruction and the occupation: the ordinary Iraqis that live on low incomes. Once again, (if anyone had any doubts) we have further proof that the Iraqi "governing council" is a mere tool in the hands of the US and British imperialists.
"We are providing Iraqi citizens with the freedom and opportunities they were denied for so long under the Baath party to realise their economic potential," said Kamel al-Gailani, the Finance Minister. "The reforms will advance efforts to build a free and open market economy in Iraq, promote Iraq's future economic growth, [and] accelerate Iraq's re-entry into the international economy and reintegration with other countries."
How a bricklayer from Basra or a plumber from Tikrit can compete and come out on top against the likes of Halliburton and Bechtel remains a mystery to us. But that may be because we are "dangerous revolutionaries" who do not trust the "wonders of the free market", or maybe do not understand the workings of the capitalist economy which provides such wonderful progress and development for the peoples of the world.
There is, however, a little problem that remains to be sorted out. Iraq is still not "secured" and is becoming more and more a veritable quagmire for the Bush Administration. The country is far from becoming an ideal environment for "business". More troops are needed and the US Armed Forces are too exhausted to cope with the present situation. This is why the US are desperately seeking help from other powers in their military efforts to stabilise Iraq.
However, although Bush needs the military help of other countries, he is not at all keen to divide the profits with Russia or Germany. They are welcome to the costs. The US imperialists also will not allow the United Nations to rule the country. In Bush's thinking the UN could, at best, "oversee the first post-war election in Iraq and draft a constitution", but real power will be kept firmly in the hands of Bremer and his acolytes.
We will come back to this question in a future article, but what we can say now is that given these conditions laid down by the gang in Washington, a new UN resolution will not be able to solve any of the problems. Putin has already said that Russia will not send any troops. Any new resolution that they may manage to patch together will merely be another "declaration of intent" that will once again serve to expose the irrelevance of the United Nations.
In the meantime all the actions of the occupying forces and their new laws are provoking more anger and resentment among the Iraqi masses. More than five months after the fall of Baghdad, there are no visible signs of genuine reconstruction. Clean water and electricity are still not available to most people and entire towns are still without phone lines.
The farce of a new UN resolution will reveal once more to the workers and youth of Iraq that they can only rely on their own forces and on those of the workers of the entire Middle East if they wish to achieve any meaningful change in their living conditions. The task of removing the occupying forces and of building a society under the control of the working people belongs to the Iraqi people themselves.