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Is 2012 Iraq’s Last Chance to Get It Right on Oil?

This is a joint post with Steph Majerowicz.

The Arab Spring has grabbed the world’s attention, yet Iraq—the Arab country that not long ago was the very epicenter of American foreign policy—has all but fallen off the front pages. While Iraq’s security has improved greatly, the country is still struggling to consolidate a functional government in the face of strong sectarian tensions. Not least of these big challenges is reaching agreement on oil. Eight years after the fall of Saddam, Iraq has yet to pass a hydrocarbons law, let alone come up with a coherent spending plan for its oil wealth.

Related Working Paper and Podcast

Iraq’s Last Window: Diffusing the Risks of a Petro-State - Working Paper 266

Oil 2 Cash in Iraq: Johnny West (Podcast)

So how could Iraq manage its oil? One idea (and readers of this blog will be shocked to hear) is a universal dividend paid to all Iraqis. Colleagues Nancy Birdsall and Arvind Subramanian proposed just this idea back in 2004 as a way to try to create accountability. The idea of an Alaska-style dividend for Iraq was starting to catch on, for example, this NY Times oped by Steven Clemons, proposals from Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and even former Alaskan governor and dividend godfather Jay Hammond tried to export his grand experiment to Baghdad. Given the political and security climate of the time, the idea was thought too radical.

United States Should Boost Trade with Poorest Countries

The United States could help developing countries by opening its trade with poorest countries.

WASHINGTON — With a complex and difficult situation grinding on in Libya, the uprising in Syria, war in Afghanistan and fresh uncertainty about U.S. assistance to Pakistan, many Americans feel beleaguered about international involvement.

At the same time, they recognize that the U.S. cannot disengage from a globalized world. If only there were a simple, low-cost way for the United States to intervene for good in the world.

Mubarak Is Out: What Lessons for China, Africa, and Western Donors?

Mubarak has resigned.  Next steps in Egypt are uncertain, but it’s certain that authoritarian rulers around the world are watching these events with great trepidation.

What’s the lesson that China and the 102 of 160 developing countries around the world that are “partly free” or “unfree” (see Freedom House) are taking from Egypt and Tunisia? And is there a lesson for Western donors?

Youth in the Middle East: Nowhere to Go but the Street

The firestorm of events across the Middle East over the past few days can't be explained by long-term development factors: the link between politics and economic development (or lack thereof) is complex in the extreme.  Still, the staggering lack of opportunities for young people, especially young entrepreneurs without political connections, is clearly an important part of the mix.