U.S. SENATOR INTRODUCES A BILL TO IMPLEMENT BIG IN IRAQ (from 2009)
This essay was originally published in the USBIG NewsFlash in September 2009.
Many people believe that the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend is an idea ready to export—a model that should be copied around the world. Two U.S. Senators have gotten the idea that the Alaska model is ready to be copied, not by the country over which the U.S. Senate has jurisdiction but by Iraq instead.
Last January, John Ensign (Republican-Nevada) introduced the “Support for Iraq Oil Trust Act” of 2009. According to the official summary of the bill, it would force the U.S. State Department to present a plan for an oil trust fund (based on the Alaska model) to the Iraqi government, and it threatens to reduce U.S. aid to Iraq if the U.S. Secretary of State fails to do so.
The bill picked up one cosponsor, Senator Evan Bayh (Democrat-Indiana). No further action has been taken on the bill since it was referred to committee in January, and probably the bill will die in committee.
But the bill has received negative attention from press in the Persian Gulf region. Saadallah Fathi, writing for GulfNews.com (based in Dubai) sees the bill as an effort to pressure the Iraqi government to adopt a policy that is not well-suited for Iraq’s situation.
Whatever the value the Alaska model might have for Iraq, this bill is probably the wrong way to export the idea. The U.S. government could make a greater effort to lead by example. If the Alaska Permanent Fund is a model to be copied, the Senate might consider copying the model itself by creating a Federal U.S. Permanent Fund. Copying the model yourself seems much more reasonable than trying to influence someone else (a sovereign foreign government) to copy the model.
The United States is resource-rich. It has the potential to create a very large Alaska-style fund using taxes on resource exploitation, such as mining, drilling, forestry, carbon emissions, and real estate. If the senators are right that the Alaska-model is ready to be copied, they might consider implementing it first in their own jurisdiction.
-Karl Widerquist, Doha, Qatar, August 2009
For Saadallah Fathi’s article in the Gulf News, go to: