Saturday, February 09, 2008

Starving Iraq

To Scrap Food Program
By June To Comply With World Bank

By Ali Jawad
Source Azzaman

The government has decided to end the rationing food program which has saved millions of Iraqis from starvation.

The decision, the government said, was in line with the obligations it has made to the World Bank.

But Finance Ministry officials, refusing to be named, said they opposed the move and feared it could lead to unexpected hikes in food prices.

The government said it was also determined to end fuel subsidies, but it declined to say when.

The food rationing system was started by former leader Saddam Hussein to offset the hardships emanating from U.N. trade sanctions.

For nearly 13 years, the program continued without hiccups with the United Nations praising it as the world's largest and most effective relief effort.

But the program has run into serious trouble since U.S. troops landed in Baghdad. The volume of rations was slashed several times and food failed to reach many beneficiaries.

The system which cost the treasury billions of dollars a year was mired in corruption.

The government took the decision without parliamentary approval.

Analysts say millions of Iraqis will be affected, particularly families with no income earners and the jobless -- currently estimated at about 40 of the workforce.

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