Handouts Common By Iraqi Government

BAGHDAD (AP) — It would raise eyebrows in America, but Iraqi politicians are handing out money in the streets.

It’s part of an effort to help Iraqis as their government tries to get life back to normal now that violence has eased. Top U.S. officials are not only condoning such payments, but encouraging them.

The handouts, some given by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki himself, are typically $200 to $400. They’re given to people needing medical care, widows, or people without jobs. But payments can range as high as $8,000.

The U.S. has been doling out cash itself, most effectively to former Sunni militants who switched sides to fight al-Qaida.

But the handouts by Iraq’s government carry risk. Fears of favoritism remain, the government is disorganized, and corruption haunts every step.