Oil Corruption and Untapped Potential

Robert D. Novak's March 23 op-ed column, “Iraq's Oil Crisis,” highlighted one result of the Bush administration's decision to retain nationalized ownership of the oil industry. Government control of Iraq's major source of income is the biggest institutional obstacle to creating representative government.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />

The petro-states in the Middle East have been able to maintain their authoritarian rule because they own all the oil. If the Iraqi provisional government had begun reconstruction efforts by announcing that the country's oil fields would be privatized and that each Iraqi citizen would be given a share in the enterprises and the profits, Iraq might be on its way to becoming a successful society now.

Moreover, subjects in other nearby petro-states might have started demanding that they, too, be given shares in their inefficient and corrupt nationalized oil companies, launching a political transformation throughout the Middle East.