The Middle East in Transition: Studies in Contemporary History

By Walter Z. Laqueur | Go to book overview
TABLE 1 -- DEVELOPMENT BOARD
Million Iraqi Dinars
1951-52 1952-53 1953-54 1954-55 1955-56*
Revenue 7.5 24.0 35.3 40.7 60.6
Estimated expenditure† 9.4 20.4 28.4 31.6 46.6
Actual expenditure 3.1 12.8 12.3 20.9 29.5
Surplus 4.3 11.7‡ 23.0 19.9 31.1
Source: Quarterly Bulletin of the Central Bank of Iraq, No. 20, 1956.
*Eleven months to February, 1956.
†Source: Development Laws, Nos. 25 ( 1951), 35 ( 1952), 43 ( 1955), and
54 ( 1956).
‡ID 5 million transferred to ordinary budget.

Their direct revenue from oil, 73.7 million Iraqi dinars in its peak year ( 1955), was ID 68.8 million in 1956 and, but for the Suez crisis, had been expected to reach ID 80 million in that year. The Iraqi dinar is at par with sterling and the £ sign will be used henceforth. The source of this wealth -- the oil-production industry -- is not covered in this review, which deals only with the way the Iraqis handle the proceeds.1

The Iraqis enjoy several advantages other than money, some of them gifts of nature, others the result of effort or heredity. Their greatest national asset is plentiful and accessible water. The length of Iraq from its northern mountains to its featureless southern river mouth is six hundred miles -- about the distance from the source to the mouth of the Rhine. At the northern end, the hardy Kurds in the highlands and the rolling plains at their foot have the benefits of snow and rain; while in the south there is compensation for the torrid summer heat of Mesopotamia in the everlasting flow of the Tigris and Euphrates; indeed, a large tract in the south of the land between the rivers is undrained marsh.

A second asset is demographic. Unlike Egypt or India, with their nightmare problem of a birth-rate that is outstripping resources, Iraq is under-populated. Its population of 2.8 million in 1930 has risen to about 5.5 million today, but results obtainable by irrigation and drainage can produce more living-space; there is room for expansion.

Among man-made, self-made advantages must be reckoned relative efficiency over the management of money. The Iraqis have kept

____________________
1
For the impact of the oil companies see "'Oil and Social Change in the Middle East'", supplement to The Economist, July 2, 1955.

-264-

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