May 1, 2004: Headlines: COS - Peru: Iraq: The Kalamazoo Gazette: Peru RPCV Peter McPherson talks about gains in Iraq

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Peru: Special Report: MSU President and Peru RPCV Peter McPherson: May 1, 2004: Headlines: COS - Peru: Iraq: The Kalamazoo Gazette: Peru RPCV Peter McPherson talks about gains in Iraq

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Peru RPCV Peter McPherson talks about gains in Iraq

Peru RPCV Peter McPherson talks about gains in Iraq

Peru RPCV Peter McPherson talks about gains in Iraq

MSU's McPherson talks about gains in Iraq

Saturday, 1, 2004
By Paula M. Davis 388-8583

It's not on his office wall yet, but Michigan State University President Peter McPherson has an official letter from Saddam Hussein.

It directs the country's central bank to give Saddam's son $1 billion.

The letter -- his is just a copy -- is a telling example of the overwhelming job McPherson and the other economic experts had last year in helping to begin rebuilding Iraq's economy.

"That's quite something. Can you imagine a letter directing the central bank to pay your son a billion in public resources?" said McPherson, keynote speaker at a Rotary district conference in Battle Creek attended by hundreds Friday.

"One of my great souvenirs," he called it.

McPherson, a former deputy secretary of the U.S. Treasury, was tapped last spring to lead a team of 20 economic experts to start rebuilding the now war-torn country's economy. He took leave from MSU and returned in September.

Ed Foster, governor of the Rotary district that includes Benton Harbor, Kalamazoo, Lansing and cities in between, selected McPherson to speak because of his message about positive developments in the struggling nation.

The task wasn't to invent economics in Iraq when McPherson and crew began their work. But in a nation where the citizenry put more faith in mattresses than the national currency, it was pretty close.

McPherson said the team of financial experts has made much headway. The country has new currency, banks are open all over and economic policies on taxes, tariffs and investment have been created. Much of the $1 billion granted to Saddam's son also was recovered and reinvested in rebuilding the nation.

This is just the type of news out of Iraq that Rotarians and others don't hear nearly enough, Foster said.

"I heard him on several occasions talking about his experiences in Iraq and how different a picture he saw going on in Iraq than what we hear in the newspapers," Foster said.

"I thought it would be interesting for Rotarians to get that kind of picture," he said.

Indeed, McPherson said once security and safety is established, there's no reason the country cannot flourish.

"They've got oil and if this stabilizes and they put money in to jack up production, in 15 years you could have the equivalent of $30 billion in oil production ... That's a lot of money to put into the economy," he said.

Also in its favor, McPherson said, is the nation's human-resource base.

"There is a very large group of educated people. Many universities. ... It will be exciting if we can get through this extremely difficult period," he said.

McPherson said he found it personally and professionally exhilarating to be part of shepherding Iraq's economic recovery. The work is ongoing there and he's consulted from time to time by those still in Iraq.

"It was hot and uncomfortable and maybe a little dangerous, but I must tell you, it was very exciting and rewarding work and I'm pleased to have gone," he said in an interview later.

Bob O'Brien, president-elect of the Galesburg Rotary Club, said he appreciated the perspective the MSU president brought the Rotarians Friday.

"We don't hear about what's being fixed over there. All we hear in the news all the time is all the negative things, all the violence and everything else," O'Brien said.

"We have no idea goals are being accomplished but slowly. ... I thought it was pretty impressive," he said.

© 2004 Kalamazoo. Used with permission

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Story Source: The Kalamazoo Gazette

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



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