President-elect George W. Bush's plans to cut government aid to the poor and let private philanthropists shoulder the burden is already reaping its reward. It was announced on Monday that US$95 million had been donated to impoverished Americans by a certain Saddam Hussein of Baghdad.
Despite a decade of biting international sanctions and a poverty rate in Iraq of more than 50 percent, Saddam Hussein has apparently decided to mark the tenth anniversary of the Gulf War by sending aid to America's inner cities and rural poor.
A statement put out by the Iraqi News Agency (INA) said a special commission would be set up to help supervise the distribution of the funds.
Given the current state of relations between the two countries, it is unlikely that the US will allow Saddam's uniformed lieutenants to wander the streets of the Bronx or east Washington,distributing his dole, which would work out at about US$3 for each American living under the poverty line.
The INA statement said the UN would be told of the donation, suggesting that its aid workers might help implement the program.
The UN in New York said it had had no word from Baghdad about the donation, and its response would depend on where the money was coming from.
The committee is still bemused by Saddam Hussein's previous philanthropic outburst, in December: he promised one billion euros (or US$950 million) -- he refuses to talk dollars -- to help the Palestinian struggle against Israel.
But his claim to have so much cash to send abroad may end up hurting his efforts to have the sanctions lifted. Some security council members are said to have questioned whether the sanctions regime is tough enough, if he has so much money to give away.
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