Iraq Dividend equal annual dividend to all Iraqis

"Public resources should belong directly to the public ... through mechanisms such as Alaska's permanent fund .. It is a model governments all over the world would be well advised to copy." Jay Hammond

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Hammond: Iraqis need oil dividends

AS IN ALASKA: The wealth should be saved for citizens. The Associated Press(Published: February 23, 2004)
WASHINGTON -- President Bush should create an Iraqi permanent fund dividend program modeled after Alaska's, according to former Gov. Jay Hammond.
In fact, Hammond said, Bush should make the fund and dividends to citizens a central element of his re-election campaign.

Hammond made the remark after delivering a history and defense of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend to the annual conference of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network. The organization wants governments to offer all citizens, regardless of their own means, enough money to live.

The group says the Alaska dividend, which Hammond helped create while governor, is "the only example of an existing basic income guarantee in the world today."

Hammond, 81, has been on a sort of moral crusade recently as he has perceived a growing threat to the dividend program. Earlier this month he crashed the Conference of Alaskans, a 55-member group that Gov. Frank Murkowski convened to talk about the Permanent Fund's future, and diverted participants into a discussion of income taxes as well.

Saturday, Hammond recited a detailed history of his dividend advocacy, starting with his attempts in the 1960s as mayor of the Bristol Bay Borough to capture some of the salmon dollars that "hemorrhaged" out of that region. He used the current Alaska dividend debate as a segue into the international arena.

"Without a Permanent Fund dividend program," Hammond said, "Alaska will face the same fate as Nigeria." The World Bank estimates that $296 billion flowed in and out of that government's treasury during its oil boom, "leaving them worse off than they were before," Hammond said.

The Economist magazine appropriately called such mismanaged oil wealth "the devil's excrement," Hammond said. The pattern has been repeated around the globe where countries have come into an oil windfall, he said.

"Absent something like our dividend program and ensuing public interest, those windfalls simply inflated a grab bag for special interests," he said.
Once deflated, the average citizen was left holding that empty bag, Hammond said. "Iraq is but the latest example."
He said he intends to seek an audience with the president to push the idea.

Hammond noted that he met the president's father, former President George Bush, years ago in Alaska before the elder Bush was well known nationally. The elder Bush helped with his fund-raising and even wrote a blurb for his autobiography, Hammond said.

"I owe George Junior at least this -- to convey to him how he could make this the centerpiece of his national campaign, thereby hopefully propelling the other candidates into the same arena to compete to see who can do more to propel or promote the concept in Third World countries, Iraq or wherever," Hammond said.

"What better way to induce a capitalistic, democratic mind-set among Iraqis?" Hammond said. "Far better than a few privileged kleptocrats living in opulent splendor while others grovel in squalor."