Austin Bay

A logical follow-on is the establishment of an Iraqi "oil trust" program, similar to the one implemented by the state of Alaska where every qualified citizen gets a share of state oil revenues. An oil trust would put several hundred dollars a year into the pockets of every adult Iraqi -- that serves as an instant economic "fire-starter." The oil trust immediately invests everyone in the economic success of Iraq's new democratic government.

Clarifying and affirming individual property rights is another important reform. Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto's "Mystery of Capital" (published in 2000) argued that Egypt's poor have around $240 billion in "dead capital," most of it tied up in property that they cannot properly mortgage. De Soto said that individual property rights and a legal system that protected contracts would instantly energize Egypt's sclerotic economy.

In 2004, while serving in Iraq, I read a short, unclassified study that made the same argument for Iraq. The potential economic payoff is huge.

The Iraqi government needs to hear from De Soto. I know of one economist who thinks a speech by De Soto to the Iraqi parliament and government ministries would not only benefit Iraq, but do wonders for reform advocates throughout the developing world.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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