Iraq mission homecoming

Iraq mission homecoming
Published: 21 December 2004

For most of the past year, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce President Lettie Bien strapped on body armor and weapons and headed to her temporary post as senior adviser at the Iraqi Ministry of Minerals and Industry. Instead of assisting local businesses at home, Army Reserve Col. Bien found herself with authority over the ministry and leading the transition of Iraq’s state-owned industries to private entities.
  
Rising crime and violence by insurgents, she said this week, prevent leaders from getting serious about privatizing the country’s industries. The industries are not profitable, she said, at least in terms understood by the West.   "Saddam in essence confiscated all large privately owned companies. My real job was getting these factories back up and operating, getting people into the factories to work and developing markets for their products," she said.
  
"These state-owned enterprises - cement and construction materials, plastics, petrochemicals and fertilizer facilities - are jobs programs. There is easily 50 per cent worker redundancy in every factory. In an unstable environment, 250,000 to 300,000 layoffs won’t help your security situation."  The Iraqi government pays workers whether their factory is working or not. The biggest problem for many facilities, she said, in addition to age and negligence, is a shortage of electricity.