web counter Media Lies: Conditions in Iraq

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

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Conditions in Iraq

According to Ali conditions in Iraq are bad, but not as bad as they were under Sadaam.
The situation in Baghdad gets more difficult everyday as the election time gets nearer. The attacks never seize to occur on a daily basis allover the hour. I haven't witnessed any, but we can hear the sounds of rockets, mortars, RPGs and machine guns on different times through everyday. The slight improvement in electricity that took place about a week ago didn't last for more than few days and now we're back to two hours of electricity followed by 4 hours of outage. This does not mean that life is impossible in Iraq now, as the difficulties have truly a less impact on our daily life than what is expected. It's not because we are more brave than other people, nor it's because we are dull enough to not be affected by such hardships. It's just people's nature everywhere to find a way to go on with their lives despite how difficult it can be, as there's simply no other option!

The prices for gasoline are still high but have dropped from the ones they reached at the peak of the crisis about two weeks ago. One can now buy 20 liters of gasoline for the price of 6000 Iraqi Dinars (approximately 4.1$ which equals20 cents for each liter). The highest prices were about 23 000 Iraqi Dinar for the same amount (approximately 15.75$ which equals 78 cents for each liter). However, the exchange price for the Iraqi Dinar against US$ is still the same (1460 Iraqi Dinar for each US$) for almost 10 months on a row now!
If $0.78/liter (approx. US$2.95/gal) is high gasoline prices, then I wonder if Ali knows what they pay for gas in Europe? And $0.20/liter (approx. US$0.76/gal) is dirt cheap anywhere in the world nowadays.

The economy in Iraq is doing well, though.
They bet for a long time on a civil war in Iraq or isolating Iraq from the international society, but Iraq came back to the political arena stronger than before the war and there are no real signs for civil war yet (and in my mind there won't be any). They try all the time do destroy Iraq's economy, but the truth remains that despite the current fuel crisis and the security problems, we still lead a MUCH better life than before the war (economically speaking). I want to say that it's no secret that it's America's very generous support that keeps it this way. The government is certainly having serious difficulties but they're not impossible to cope with and with large amount of the huge Iraqi debt forgiven and the sanctions being left, it certainly stands at a much comfortable position than Saddam's regime's.

The market is generally stable, most goods maintained their prices for months, fuel and some local goods have seen some real rises in their costs but this time we actually have money in our wallets! While before the war we hardly had any and we were living in a continuous crisis that made the word lose its meaning. And it's not true what some people think, that it's only government employees who have gained from the change, as the private business have seen a much more improvement which is still based to a large extent on the original rise in the salaries of government employees. Teachers, engineers, nurses, Etc.. can now buy clothes, electrical devices, furniture, 'luxuries' such as mobile phones, satellite dishes, computers and as a result several new businesses that did not even exist at Saddam's time, began to expand and started to hire more individuals with higher salaries.

Just a simple example is the small shop that I and my brothers owned and used to work in just to support our family. That small shop was almost empty when we joined our uncle to help him make it work in 1997. We worked the four of us so hard because it was our only real source of income. Our sales were growing constantly starting from 50$/day as an average at start to about 175$/day average when we left it to our uncle after the war (yes two families lived on the profit margin of 50 $ sales/day), as our jobs pay us what we see as enough now.

Last week I dropped by my old shop and asked my uncle about how his business was going. The shop didn't look growing to me and that didn't surprise me, as my uncle is an old man with a chronic heart disease and has only his son now to help him. Anyway, like all businessmen he gave me a general answer, but I told him that I want numbers and as he's my uncle and he used to work with us in the past he didn't find it very difficult to tell me. He said that there's some kind of depression these days and his average sales are not more than 400 000 Iraqi Dinar/day (273 US$/day) and that a month ago the average was about 600 000 Iraqi Dinar/day (342 US$/day). Moreover my uncle has no terrible inflation to worry about now. Now with an old man and his teenage son this small business is making almost double the profit it used to make when it was run by the same old man, two dentists and a doctor!

There's no mystery behind that, it's just that so many people have more money on them now and it's not that difficult to get them to buy anything, as on the contrary most people are trying to make up for all the years of deprivation they suffered in the past. They just buy and buy like there's no tomorrow!
So, despite the constant explosions from vehicle bombs and RPGs, the constant rat-a-tat-tat of AK-47 and machinegun fire, for most Bahgdadis life still goes on and does so in a better way than it did under Sadaam.

He closes with these significant words.
Back to our calculations we can say that spending millions of Dollars to ruin Iraq's economy is not a great investment. And as Iraq is not ruined economically and politically, it seems that the only thing that these rulers can hope to achieve their sick dreams is making the lives of Iraqis a daily suffer through maintaining the difficult security. But even this is not a real victory and has failed to attract more supporters to turn it into a wide spread chaos that involve the whole country when tried three times. The question is if we (Iraqis and the coalition) managed to at least hold to the achievements in economy and political field, how long can our neighbors keep spending money that generously, and how would that affect their own treasury as one of their formidable weapons to keep their own citizens in slavery? And moreover how far can they take this dangerous confrontation with the US so openly? My 'guess' is that with both parties determining to see this struggle to the end the scale is on our side.
Would Ali, and other Iraqis, feel that the US was determined to see this struggle through to the end if John Kerry had been elected President?

We'll never know. But it's a certainty that Bush's "stubbornness" gives the Iraqis hope and the willingness to suffer mightily in the short term for what they see as a positive outcome - freedom and democracy.