A royalty trust in Iraq

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Excerpt from the president's press conference Wednesday:

What are your feelings about discussions in the new Iraqi government of amnesty for insurgents? And regarding the oil resources in Iraq that you discussed, do you support guaranteeing the Sunnis a percentage of the oil profits, either through a new law or through a constitutional provision?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that's not a bad question for a substitute guy. (Laughter.) I believe that the Iraqi government – first of all, the decision on what to do with their resources is their decision, not mine. And so, this is advisory. These are people that are elected and under a constitution. My advice to them is to use their energy assets as a way to unite the country. And by that, I mean that people will have – they may not have oil resources in their provinces, but they would have a stake in how the resources are developed elsewhere in the country.

One option I laid out the other day for them to consider – I must confess, this isn't probably the best way to convince a government to do something, is to put it out through the press – but I did suggest a royalty trust on behalf of the Iraqi people. Other countries have tried that; the state of Alaska has tried that. To me, it's an interesting idea for them to consider, to basically say that no matter where you live in the country, you have a stake in the future of your country because of your ownership in energy assets.

I'm very encouraged that George W. Bush has suggested a "royalty trust"—presumably a fund that passes some percentage of oil royalties directly through to the people. This is an idea I have advanced on several occasions, going back to April 2003. From March 2004. From March 2003. From April 2003. And one more. As Bush points out, a dividend of some specific amount per person will tend to hold the country together and to give members of minority groups—i.e., the Sunnis—a genuine stake in the ongoing government. And it means that the government won't have a monopoly on oil revenue.