Peru RPCV Serves in Iraq

By Charlie Cain, Margarita Bauz, and Lisa Zagaroli / The Detroit News [editor's note...this article was written in April prior to the much publicized removal of Jay Garner.}

EAST LANSING -- Michigan State University President Peter McPherson, a former deputy U.S. Treasury secretary, is expected to lead the Bush administration's effort to re-establish a financial system in war-torn Iraq.

McPherson, 62, will take a leave of absence from the school he has headed since 1993 to accept the temporary assignment of helping to reconstruct a banking and monetary system in Iraq.  Lou Anna Kimsey Simon, MSU's provost and vice president for academic affairs, is expected to be named acting president.

Neither the White House nor MSU would confirm McPherson's appointment on Thursday.

"I have talked with President McPherson and he did say he is having discussions with the Bush administration about recovery in Iraq and he also told me to make sure that people knew that there are no plans for him to leave permanently the presidency of MSU," said Terry Denbow, MSU's vice president for university relations.

Eight people officially have been named to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for post-war Iraq, which will be headed up by retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, said Cmdr. Chris Isleib, a Defense Department spokesman. The office, temporarily based in Ku

wait, is in the process of moving to Iraq.  Garner, other American officials and Iraqi representatives met in Nasiriyah on Tuesday to begin forming an interim government that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says would allow Iraqis to have an immediate role in ruling their own country.

McPherson is expected to serve as a liaison between Treasury Secretary John Snow and military officials in charge of the rebuilding effort.

"He's always been successful at everything he has done. I think he's a great choice," said Peter Magrath, president of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges. Magrath spoke with McPherson, who serves on his board, about the job Wednesday.

"This is the key position to handle the financial stability to reconstruct the government," Magrath said. "Here's a man who's been deputy Treasury secretary and he was brilliant in that job. He knows how to run complicated institutions like MSU. The track record is outstanding."

Said U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee: "He's a highly qualified person for a difficult task."

MSU Trustee Scott Romney confirmed that McPherson "has had discussions with the government about a temporary assignment." But he said he couldn't say more until there was an official announcement from the federal government.

Free-market challenges

The Treasury Department is working to turn around Iraq's collapsed economy. Officials are developing a plan to transform its financial institutions to a free-market economy after years of a system rigidly controlled by Saddam Hussein. Treasury officials also want to help the new Iraqi government create a new currency.

McPherson's job won't be an easy one, said Ahmad Ezzeddine, assistant dean at Wayne State University's School of Business Administration.

"You cannot do a quick fix. It could take years because you're building a brand new infrastructure for a country, you're building institutions from scratch," said the Lebanon native who specializes in economic and trade-related issues of the Middle East.

Ezzeddine said the U.S. effort to help rebuild an Iraqi economy faces "many ambiguities.

"How much cooperation you will get from people internally is a big unknown at this point. There are a lot of internal pressures that will impact on what we try to do on the economic side. You cannot approach the economic situation without dealing with the political situation -- they will go hand-in-hand. "There are tremendous challenges."

Expertise lauded

MSU economics professor Charles Ballard said McPherson's expertise

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Volume 14, Issue 2

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