Monday 7 April 2003

Iraq - What next?

George Kerevan's Scotsman article today has some interesting suggestions:
Iraq’s biggest problem - as well as its biggest asset - is its youthful population. Half this country of 24 million is aged 14 or under. Which means they know nothing other than Saddam’s propaganda. In the next decade, this cohort will come of age. Unless they have something productive to do, they will become a force open to nationalist and Islamic fundamentalist rhetoric.

The crucial thing is to find a way of absorbing them into the economy. Instantly, this means a massive educational programme, especially to ensure that all young Iraqi women can read (current female literacy is about 45 per cent). Giving the young women a stake in the economy will be a good way of cooling male hotheads.

Fortunately, there are two labour-intensive industries that Iraq can develop to soak up some of this restless youth: agriculture and tourism.

I think that a peaceful Middle East would enjoy a tourist bonanza. Sadly, it's probably too late for one of the great investment opportunities of recent times: property in downtown Baghdad.