Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Four Years and Counting in Iraq: Regarding "Lessons of War"

Regarding "Lessons of War"

The Post should be commended for not describing the extremely difficult way forward in simplistic terms. Having said that, the editorial should have given more attention to the role of oil, not because of its obvious energy significance but because it is an obstacle to good governance in Iraq.

The editorial said, "We may have underestimated the impoverishment brought about by misrule and sanctions and the brutalization born of totalitarian cruelty." But the sentence should have continued: ". . . that thrives especially well in countries cursed by large amounts of oil revenue flowing to a central government, eliminating any chance for a sustainable democracy."

Coming from Venezuela, where oil revenue is centralized, I know that loyalties to country, tribe and sect are all irrelevant compared with the unnatural loyalty that can be purchased by those in control of a checkbook fattened by oil. If the United States wants to achieve anything going forward, it had better find a way to distribute Iraq's oil revenue directly to the Iraqi people.

Per Kurowski
Bethesda

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

World Bank and IMF Collaboration, the February 2007 Report

When I read the “Rome Declaration on Harmonization” February 2003, were the word harmonization was mentioned 19 times in 8 pages, I loudly protested since I felt that it sounded a lot like killing of the debates around many difficult development issues, agreeing on strategies in some smoke-free rooms in Washington, instead of bringing out all the inherent conflicts of risks and having them openly discussed in all the different capitals of the world, and hopefully among its citizens too. I cried out loud. “If ownership is to mean anything you must at least allow them to own the debate.”

Thankfully after many discussions (not with me though) the World Bank and the IMF have now in February come out with their “Report of the External Review Committee on Bank-Fund Collaboration” and thankfully harmonization is almost gone and the emphasis is almost completely on collaboration, which of course is a totally different issue.

Now in this Report of 58 ages the word “harmonization” appears only twice, and in the same paragraph, as follows:

5. Collaboration on fiscal issues: • There needs to be improved integration and harmonization of work on fiscal issues. As noted in the joint 2003 staff review of Bank–Fund Collaboration on Public Expenditure Issues, the key to an effective partnership on public finance management is not found in a formal division of roles, but in the harmonization of recommendations.

I have no qualms at all with that, although when they in the next paragraph state, In terms of ‘fiscal space’, there should be no suggestion that there is a trade-off between short-term stability and long-term growth. These are complementary, not competing, objectives, e.o.q, I would have included the caveat that this is true as long as you avoided too much short-term stability, since staying in bed, does not correlate much either with development.