Guardian: Lost from the Baghdad museum: truth
"On Sunday night, in a remarkable programme on BBC2, the architectural historian Dan Cruikshank [reported he] had been to the museum in Baghdad, had inspected the collection, the storerooms, the outbuildings, and had interviewed people who had been present around the time of the looting, including George and some US troops. And Cruikshank was present when, for the first time, US personnel along with Iraqi museum staff broke into the storerooms.
One, which had clearly been used as a sniper point by Ba'ath forces, had also been looted of its best items, although they had been stacked in a far corner. The room had been opened with a key. .. Overall, he concluded, most of the serious looting "was an inside job".
Cruikshank also tackled [museum director] George directly on events leading up to the looting. The Americans had said that the museum was a substantial point of Iraqi resistance, and this explained their reticence in occupying it. Not true, said George, a few militia-men had fired from the grounds and that was all. This, as Cruikshank heavily implied, was a lie. Not only were there firing positions in the grounds, but at the back of the museum there was a room that seemed to have been used as a military command post. And it was hardly credible that senior staff at the museum would not have known that. Cruikshank's closing thought was to wonder whether the museum's senior staff - all Ba'ath party appointees - could safely be left in post.
Furious, I conclude two things from all this. The first is the credulousness of many western academics and others who cannot conceive that a plausible and intelligent fellow-professional might have been an apparatchiks of a fascist regime and a propagandist for his own past. The second is that - these days - you cannot say anything too bad about the Yanks and not be believed. " (Strong stuff from the Guardian!) 7:54:10 PM
Grants instead of loans: 10-page, clear explanation of the argument for using grants instead of concessional IDA loans at the World Bank. "Grants are a gift with strings attached. Counter to the trend of lending blanket sums for indeterminate government plans, grants will be project-linked and executed under competitive bid with payments shared by the Bank and the beneficiary. For the easily quantified basic needs that improve the quality of life and are the preconditions for economic growth--health, primary education, water and sanitation--the grant system would count by independent audit and pay for output: numbers of babies vaccinated, children that can read and water and sewer services delivered to villages. No results: no funds expended. No funds diverted to off-shore bank accounts, vanity projects or private jets... The share of the World Bank grant in the total cost would depend upon the income level and capital market access of recipients. The poorest nations without capital market access would receive grants equal to 90% of the service cost while the development agency’s contribution would fall to 50% as the income level or access to private sector resources rises toward automatic graduation from IDA aid.
An example: A country of $250 per capita income qualifying for 90% grant resources determines that vaccination of its children against measles is a desired goal. If the development agency confirms the need, the government would solicit competitive bids from private sector agents, nongovernmental organizations such as charitable institutions and public sector entities such as the Ministry of Health. If the lowest qualifying bid is $5 per vaccination, the World Bank would agree to pay $4.50 (90%) for each child vaccinated directly to the provider. The government would be responsible for the remaining $0.50 (10%) fee. Payments would only be made upon certification by an agent independent of all participants--the government, the World Bank and the provider of vaccinations. ..
This system eliminates the distortionary effects of financing cost subsidies (traditional development bank loans and guarantees) by maintaining the relative prices of inputs. It creates a revenue guarantee for agents that provide execution substantially free of political risk through the World Bank’s direct payment obligation. Since payment is ensured directly to the concessionaire, the private sector will generate the necessary funding. From the concessionaires’ standpoint, the proposed system has the distinct 12:02:45 AM
advantages of allowing them clear responsibility to deliver a product they understand while eliminating the need to negotiate financing with a myriad of official lenders."