We are on track [Archives:2003/648/Opinion]

July 7 2003

By Edmund Hull
Ambassador of the United States of America to Yemen

We know that Yemenis are seriously concerned with the situation of the people of Iraq in the aftermath of the war of liberation. The provisional authority in Iraq is seriously working to improve the lives of all Iraqis despite the very difficult circumstances surrounding them.
A powerful metaphor for the return to normal life in downtown Baghdad is the re-emergency of traffic jams just 10 weeks after the United States and its coalition partners brought down the repressive regime of Saddam Hussein.
In those 10 weeks, as President Bush has said, the United States has focused its work in Iraq on making the country secure for its citizens and for coalition troops- a first step in improving the lives of the Iraqi people.
Toward this end, more than 28,000 American combat forces and military police are patrolling Baghdad, enforcing order and arresting criminals. Citizens feel safer leaving their homes and obviously using their cars. Retailers have returned to the streets.
Even as those efforts continue, the United States is turning its attention as well to long-range efforts to rebuild the Iraqi nation. Along these lines, the U.S. has contributed more than $ 700 million in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to date, as well as established a $ 100 million find to pay Iraqis who repair buildings and utilities.
And, billions of dollars taken from the Iraqi people by a corrupt regime have been recovered and will be spent on reconstruction, as the United States works to support the development of a free Iraqi government based on the rule of law and equal justice for all Iraqis.
One delegation of Iraqi business leaders and officials was attending the World Economic Forum meeting in Shuneh, Jordan last week, even while Iraqi officials led a delegation to a UN conference in New York. Iraqi reporters representing some of the 100 newspapers that have sprung up across Iraq since liberation were covering these developments. For the first time in decades, these individuals and others like them have the right to free expression.
The coalition is also empowering Iraqis to maintain law and order. Thousands of Iraqi police officers already are patrolling Baghdad streets alongside coalition soldiers; the coalition provisional authority (CPA) has established a criminal court presided by Iraqi judges; and the CPA is about to induct soldiers into a new Iraqi army, which ultimately will secure the nation's borders.
Within weeks, the CPA plans to establish a political council, representative of the major strands of Iraqi society. That body will have real power right from the start: It will nominate ministry heads, and it will form commissions to recommend policies on vital issues from educational reform to telecommunications infrastructure to proposal for stimulating the private sector.
On a broader level, plans are on track to convene a constitutional conference, run entirely by Iraqis, whose task will be to draft a new constitution for the nation a document that, crafted in an atmosphere of open debate, will provide a foundation for national elections and a free and sovereign Iraqi government.
A third vital task, one that is being treated as an immediate priority, is transforming Iraq's economy to assure that political freedom is accompanied by economic freedom and an escape from stagnant living standards.
The job of creating a vibrant economy in Iraq is a daunting one, given the legacy of decades of mismanagement by the Ba'athist regime. Miniaturization misguided central planning and outright theft under Saddam Hussein's rule combined to produce massive misallocation of capital.
Now the effort will be to restore economic activity, get Iraqis back to work and to foster the development of an economic system based on freedom and private enterprise.
Small firms, which have the best chance of creating jobs quickly, will be key to fueling the needed economic recovery. And for the process to succeed, the coalition will support Iraqi efforts to establish a clear commercial code, honest court, low barriers to entry, and transparent corporate governance arrangements.
These reforms will allow Iraq to regain full access to the global marketplace, opening the door to foreign investment that can provide much needed resources and empower Iraqis to modernize an economy that the former regime kept locked in the 1950s and 1960s.
At the same time, the coalition is working with Iraqis to ensure that a humane social safety net exists, lest the needed economic policies exacerbate political and social strains in the society. And we will ensure that all Iraqis, not just an elite few, share in the proceeds of Iraq's natural wealth.
We are hopeful that the Yemeni people will agree with us that all these steps will serve to improve the lives of the Iraqi people after three decades of tyranny and oppression.