Friday, October 24, 2003

Department of Fishy Math

An article by Jonathan Weisman in today's Washington Post — "Iraq Aid Needs, Pledge At Odds; Questions Raised About Making Up Difference" — suggests Iraq will have big problems sticking to its projected budgets in the next few years.

Seems Paul Bremer, the American ruler of Iraq, pledged in a letter to U.S. Congress that the country would ask for no funding from the U.S. in 2005 as long as it gets the full $20.3 billion it wants for 2004.

Writes Weisman: "The written pledge, in a document responding to lawmakers' questions, appeared at odds with the Coalition Provisional Authority's estimated costs of reconstruction and the amount of money likely to come from other nations. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow put the total rebuilding cost at $55 billion in a speech yesterday at an Iraq donors conference in Madrid.

"If the administration secures its full request from Congress, the United States will have committed less than half that amount — $24 billion in 2003 and 2004. Pledges from the World Bank and other donors total little more than $8 billion so far, and the Madrid conference started on a disappointing note for U.S. officials, largely because of reluctance from Saudi Arabia.

"The provisional authority's document to Congress concedes that any money pledged from other nations will not be available until 2005, leaving the near-term rebuilding costs solely on the U.S. government. Still, the authority wrote to Congress this week: 'If we receive our full request of $20.3 billion, then we will not seek additional reconstruction funds in FY 2005,' which ends in September of that year."