by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Nov 11, 2012
The Iraqi cabinet decided on Sunday to maintain the two-decade-old food ration for those who want it, following a storm of protest over its plans to replace it with a cash benefit.
Ministers took the decision at an emergency meeting convened in response to the chorus of press and opposition criticism of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government over its move on Tuesday to replace the ration card, government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said.
Iraqis will be able to choose between keeping their allocation of flour, rice, cooking oil and sugar or taking up a monthly cash benefit of 25,000 dinars (around $20) per person, Dabbagh said.
Maliki's government had wanted to end the ration card system, first introduced by Saddam Hussein's regime in the face of UN sanctions imposed over his 1990 invasion of Kuwait, from March 1 next year.
The prime minister's spokesman, Ali Mussawi, said that the government was spending around 12,000 dinars ($10) per person per month on the programme.
That amounts to around seven percent of the Iraqi budget according to a UN report last year, more than either the health or education budgets.
But because of inefficiencies and corruption, only around 6,000 dinars' ($5) worth of food finds its way to Iraqis, according to Mussawi.
The UN report last year advocated reform of the system, Iraq's biggest social safety net, describing it as "inefficient in several ways" and "vulnerable to theft and corruption".
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