Tishwash: Iraq seeks “monetary sovereignty” Restrictions on the dollar “confuse” Everyday life
Al-Harith Hassan, an employee in the oil sector in the city of Basra in southern Iraq, has been unable for months to withdraw his full salary in dollars from the bank, after the authorities imposed new restrictions that complicate the use of hard currencies, in their effort to control a black market for exchange rates.
These measures are considered a paradox in an oil-rich country, which has huge reserves in US dollars, exceeding one hundred billion.
However, the emergence of a parallel exchange market, and the authorities imposing restrictions within the framework of strengthening banking supervision in compliance with international rules imposed by Washington, complicated the daily life of the population.
The official exchange rate is 1,320 dinars to one dollar, but at money changers, the price of one dollar is equal to 1,500 dinars and may reach 1,600.
Currency exchange offices have become very cautious with customers, after the arrest of dozens of money changers accused of manipulating prices.
37-year-old Hassan says: “For 3 months or more, there has been great difficulty in obtaining dollars from banks.”
The salary of this employee supervising logistics operations in an oil field in southern Iraq is approximately $2,500 per month.
He explained: “In the past months, we would go to the bank to withdraw our salary. They would give us very small amounts in the form of payments, due to the illiquidity of the dollar.”
Hassan explains that recently, the general trend among banks has been to give salaries in dinars and according to the official exchange rate. But he considers this “a problem, because the official exchange rate differs from the parallel market price by 20 percent,” meaning that “the salary will be reduced.” Of its real value.
The Central Bank of Iraq announced in a statement that, as of January, it had decided to “limit all commercial and other transactions to the Iraqi dinar instead of the dollar.” in the country.
While the dollar can be withdrawn in cash from previously existing deposits in hard currency naturally, starting in 2024, it will become necessary to withdraw every money transfer from abroad in dinars exclusively, and according to the official exchange rate.
The Prime Minister’s Advisor for Financial Affairs, Mazhar Saleh, confirms that “this is the rule that is part of monetary sovereignty, but there are exceptions,” which especially include embassies.
He adds: “We strengthen what is called monetary sovereignty… It is not possible to deal with two currencies within the national economy.”
However, these restrictions raise controversy and hinder the daily life of Iraqis, according to Agence France-Presse.
Direct transfers outside banks have become impossible in dollars, and are limited to dinars at the official rate.
The banking sector in Iraq has adopted an electronic platform, the aim of which is to monitor the uses of the dollar and tighten control over a thriving informal economy, while tax evasion attracts some importers and traders.
The Prime Minister, Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani, acknowledged that with the new measures, the cash supply in hard currency available in the market decreased from “200 to 300 million dollars.” per day to “30, 40 and 50 million dollars.”
Haider Al-Shakri, from the Chatham House Research Center, explains that “one of the main reasons” In order to enhance demand for the currency in the parallel market, “the smuggling of the dollar towards countries and entities subject to sanctions, especially Iran and Syria.”
In September, Shiaa Al-Sudani said that merchants who deal with Iran are forced to turn to the parallel market to obtain currency, given that Iran is a country “that has sanctions and is not allowed to conduct financial transfers.”
At the same time, he confirmed that the central banks in Iraq and Iran are discussing a “mechanism” In order to “regulate trade”, it would “break the back of the parallel market”.
Al-Shakri also points out the existence of “illegal trade.” For some products subject to “high taxes”, such as cigarettes.
In late November, the government announced facilities to encourage importers of cigarettes, cars, gold, and mobile phones to obtain foreign currency through official channels.
As for bilateral exchanges, the authorities encourage banks and importers to use currencies other than the dollar, such as the euro, the UAE dirham, or the Chinese yuan.
The Prime Minister’s advisor, Mazhar Salih, defends the banking restrictions that aim to “verify these transfers,” with the aim of reassuring “the international financial community, and also for reasons related to Iraqi society: Do these transfers actually go to finance Iraq’s trade?”
He adds: “What is happening has nothing to do with the strength of the Iraqi economy. Iraq today is at the highest levels of foreign reserves in its financial history.” Rather, “structural changes have occurred in issues of dealing with foreign currency.”
He also notes that in order to protect the country with a population of 43 million people from inflation, importers have access to the dollar and buy it at the official rate, which is more beneficial.
This concerns especially foodstuffs, medicines and building materials. Saleh believes that this “creates an atmosphere of stability, which is contrary to the parallel market.”
On the other hand, Iraqis can withdraw money in dollars before they travel. But this created a new problem, as the authorities at the airport stopped many travelers in possession of debit cards, which were used to withdraw thousands of dollars from abroad at the official rate, and then sold them again at the black market price inside Iraq. link
PompeyPeter The head of the armed forces coming out and saying the whole of the armed forces from Wednesday to Wednesday starting the day before yesterday through Wednesday of next week are on the highest level of alert in the whole of the armed forces. Level C…It’s like a bloody call for a war, reservists and so on. It’s saying it’s because of the election on the Monday the 18th…That makes no sense. Most countries like here in the UK and the US we don’t have a day off for an election. Last time they had council elections they only had 40% turn out. Pretty apathetic. It’s Iraq, they give them a day off. Now Sudani says they have two days off, Monday and Tuesday. Now we hear the whole bloody army’s been called up on massive stay of alert. [Post 1 of 2….stay tuned]
PompeyPeter I’m thinking these are council elections, no body give a fiddles fig about these things. Very strange. I thought, hmmm, new small category notes, ATMs, a lot of people trying to get into a bank to change their notes…Thinking about it, they may want the army involved to protect movements of new notes and coins…The 20th they’ve got 5 days to spend the big chunk of the budget that’s been sitting there waiting for over 11 months. Why? Because they don’t want to spend it at 1300. It’s too expensive….It would seem perfect timing perhaps they mask these elections with something else which may or may not be the rate change and new small category notes. That’s my eye on the prize today. Could be wrong. Just my opinion. [Post 2 of 2]
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