The Iraqi trade Ministry has announced that the ration card, known as the Public Distribution System, will now operate on a sliding-scale dependent on a citizen’s income.
Walid al-Helo told AKnews that the ministry is trying to combat poverty in Iraq by expanding the scope of the system despite international pressure on the country to eliminate it altogether.
Accurate data is being compiled in areas most stricken by poverty in order to assess claims for food subsidy tokens under the scheme.
The Public distribution System cost the Iraqi government almost $3m dollars in 2010 compared to $3.5m in 2009.
The ration system dates back to 1990, when the UN Security Council imposed economic sanctions on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait.
The system allowed Iraqis to buy subsidized sugar, flour, rice, powdered milk, cooking oil, tea, beans, baby milk, soap and detergent.
The ration cards also helped track population displacement due to the invasion, with people forced to re-register for new cards when they moved.
Though the ration system continued even after the fall of the Saddam Hussein government in 2003, there have been calls to eliminate or limit its scope.
At the end of April, the Iraqi Trade Ministry announced the reduction of rationed items to include just five: flour, sugar, oil, tea, and rice.
Iraqi officials have long resisted scrapping the program altogether for fear of a public backlash.
The last report of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) placed Iraq among the 22 countries that suffer from acute poverty and lack of food security because of war and the failure of government institutions to provide the necessary sustenance.
The Iraqi Planning Ministry revealed earlier this year that the rate of poverty in Iraq stands at about 23%, equivalent to seven million people, who live below the poverty line on an individual income of less than 37,000 Iraqi Dinars (under $32) per month.
The Iraqi government expects this number to decrease to about 14% over the next five years following the implementation of the eventual recommendations of the Higher Commission for food security established earlier this year to alleviate the suffering of the country’s underclass.