Thursday, November 09, 2006

Economic Development is the Solution

Professor Eric Davis of Rutgers University was on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer recently to discuss how economic development could help curb the violence in Iraq. He explains that without improving the economy, there is little hope of reducing political violence and moving towards political stability. While Bush has stated on many occasions that the Iraqi economy is key to stability in Iraq, has done very little on the ground to develop the economy beyond what's needed for the most basic reconstruction.

Davis argues that while contracting jobs to Iraqis certainly helps in the long term, it does not produce sustainable results:
"It's not enough to go into a neighborhood and just pay somebody to do some work for a while and then withdraw. As a matter of fact, if you look at the interviews with Iraqis in the recent effort of American and Iraqi troops to suppress sectarian violence in Iraq, all the Iraqis would say, "Yes, we have peace now, but unless we're able to turn the economy around, once the American and Iraqi troops leave, the sectarian violence is going to return all over again." And, lo and behold, that's exactly what happened."
Widespread unemployment is primarily fueling the insurgency and crime syndicates. Lacking alternatives, many of Iraq's unemployed, the youth especially, are being recruited into these dangerous positions. As Davis notes most Iraqis do not consider militias or criminal syndicates sustainable occupations, and would readily trade their guns in for a hammer.

In an op-ed he recently penned, Davis suggests a two stage program to push forward economic development:
"Initially, the funds couldbe used to create WPA-type jobs reminiscent of the New Deal. Such jobs would replicate the Commanders' Emergency Response Program that the U.S. military has used so successfully to quellpolitical violence. CERP funds have created temporary jobs for men in areas characterized by high levelsof insurgent activity, leading to a sharp decline in violence, gratitude on the part of those lraqis put to work,and benefits to the local community, such as the removal of garbage and sewage, filling potholes andpaving roads, repairing schools and police stations, rebuilding sewer systems, drilling water wells, clearingirrigation canals and building clinics.

Once violence began to decline following the implementation of a WPA-type program of job creation, the economic reconstruction fund could organize a second phase in which small economic projects would be promoted to provide sustainable employment. Bakeries, schools, new markets, expansion of hospitals, and construction work represent the type of activity that could immediately put large numbers of lraqis in sustainable economic activity which could both pump money into the economy and add to Iraq's socia capital."
The US should not solely bear the costs of these programs. Our allies in the Middle East, particularly the oil-producing countries who are awash in oil revenues, need to help fund these programs. After all they stand to lose more than the US if Iraq becomes a failed state; they don't want an extension of Iranian influence in Iraq and they certainly don't want violence from Iraq to spill over the border into their countries.

Incidentally, EPIC will be publishing an interview next week with former Army captain and founder of War Kids Relief, Cpt. Jon Powers. In the interview Cpt. Powers discusses the problems facing Iraqi youth, unemployment chief among them, and explains how US NGO's can help give Iraqi youths a future.

No comments:

Clicky Web Analytics