The Public Distribution System : consequences of U.S. Food Aid in Iraq
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This report addresses the consequences of the Iraqi Public Distribution System (PDS), a food rationing system managed by the Iraqi Ministry of Trade (MoT), administered by the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), and supported with U.S. food aid. The Saddam Hussein administration created the PDS as emergency food aid in 1991 when United Sanctions (UN) sanctions made food imports to Iraq difficult. After more than two decades in operation, the PDS has developed long-term negative effects on Iraq’s most vulnerable populations. Specific vulnerable populations include Iraqi War Widows, Iraqi farmers, and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). This report introduces the current Public Distribution System following a thorough background on the development of government-citizen relations, Sunni-Shi’i dynamics, and urban-rural economies throughout the twentieth Century in Iraq. The PDS harms the most food vulnerable Iraqis more than it assists them in the long run because of the unreliable delivery times, poor quality of the PDS goods, and depreciation of the local food market; therefore, the WFP and Iraqi MoT should limit the PDS recipients, improve the efficiency and quality of fewer goods in the PDS basket, and strengthen Iraq’s agriculture sector to provide for the current market and wheat exports. Based on an analysis of the U.S. farm bill, this paper recommends a shift in U.S. food aid from distributing American surplus crops as food aid. The U.S. government should focus on building capacity in the Iraqi agriculture sector with a model similar to the Obama Administration’s Feed the Future (FTF) initiative.