December 17, 2003 - MLive: Peru RPCV Peter McPherson says Iraq's finances were a mess

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Peru: Peace Corps Peru: The Peace Corps in Peru: December 17, 2003 - MLive: Peru RPCV Peter McPherson says Iraq's finances were a mess

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Peru RPCV Peter McPherson says Iraq's finances were a mess

Peru RPCV Peter McPherson says Iraq's finances were a mess

Iraq's finances were a mess

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

MIDLAND -- He served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Peru, led an international aid agency, worked for the White House in a high-level Treasury post, and now has the job as president of Michigan State University.
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Despite it all, nothing prepared Peter McPherson for one burning memory after five months in Iraq: 130-degree heat. The discomfort barely eased when the sun set.

"It was hot," said McPherson, who met privately with The Saginaw News and Midland business and civic leaders Tuesday at the Midland County Historical Museum to talk about bringing research technology to market. "Our office at 10 o'clock at night would be 100 degrees."

McPherson, 63, led the attempt to rebuild a broken financial system in the Persian Gulf nation after Saddam Hussein fell from power.

The university president, who left the East Lansing campus in May and returned in October, reported in Iraq to Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator orchestrating reconstruction.

McPherson's role: Oversee the reopening of banks, usher in a new currency and distribute cash to pay 1.3 million government workers.

He started from scratch.

"Nothing worked," McPherson said. "Looting was far more damaging than the war."

The Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq had a two-note currency when McPherson began. One note was worth a dime, the other $5.

"The currency wasn't functional," he said. "They were very easily counterfeited."

The former state-controlled economy had no checking system either, meaning a buyer had to pay in cash. Now, Iraq uses six denominations that have ditched portraits of Saddam on the bills and sport the pictures of ancient Babylonian and national leaders.

The former Iraqi dictator's capture should ease violence in the battle-torn country, said McPherson, who wore a bullet-proof vest and helmet when he left the Baghdad compound he stayed in.

McPherson had worked in foreign affairs, business and in Republican presidential administrations before the Bush White House called him to duty this spring.

Iraqi citizens should have the right to try Saddam for war crimes, McPherson said, adding that the one-time Baath Party ruler should have the right to a defense.

"What's important is (that Saddam is) tried by Iraqis and that it's fair," he said. t

© 2003 Saginaw News. Used with permission

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Story Source: MLive

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Peru; Iraq; Economics



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