The largest international "aid" scheme in history is coming to an end today, reports the BBC (HT: Bill Hobbs). I love that the BBC refers to the oil-for-food program as a "scheme".

The programme was, quite simply, the most ambitious experiment in aid ever undertaken by the United Nations.

It became a test of the organisation's capacity to shield ordinary people from the potentially catastrophic impact of sanctions aimed at a political elite.

And that's why sanctions never work: they hurt the poor, oppressed population, while the political elite ride high on the hog. The oil-for-food scheme was designed to try to prevent that, but there were dozens of reports in the 1990s (and now, lots of proof) that most of the money was diverted away from the poor, and into Saddam's vaults.
The spending will not suddenly stop though.

The American-led coalition has renegotiated almost all of the contracts and re-employed most of the local staff.

Ordinary Iraqis probably will not immediately notice the difference though.

There is just more than $4bn still left in the bank and the new trade ministry will gradually wind down the programmes over the next seven months.

The coalition official co-ordinating the handover, ambassador Stephen Mann, said whatever happens after that will be up to the new Iraqi Government to decide.

Sounds perfect, to me.



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