A customer counts Iraqi dinars at a money changer in Baghdad, Oct. 1, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Saad Shalash)
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While the Central Bank of Iraq has been considering deleting three zeros from the currency for several years, economists remained divided over how markets would be affected.
Categories: Originals Iraq
The Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) has been attempting to delete three zeros from the Iraqi currency since 2003. This project has raised many concerns among the Iraqi public and within the business community, and Iraqi economists are divided. While some support the project and consider it a chance to decrease inflation and unemployment, others warn of economic shocks that may prevail over the Iraqi market as a result of the project’s implementation.
Following amendments made by the CBI, implementation of the project has been postponed several times. This is because of fears that are mostly related to the lack of security, the presence of a market open to foreign commodities without any restrictions, the prevalence of counterfeit money in the market and rampant corruption in the country.
The independent Iraqi News Agency (INA) quoted Abdul Hussein al-Yasiri, a member of the Iraqi parliamentary Finance Committee, as saying that 2014 will witness the deletion of zeros from the Iraqi currency. He noted that the deletion will occur in coordination with the CBI, and that as a result of the project, the number of banknotes in circulation will be reduced from 4 billion to 1 billion.
Haider al-Abadi, the head of the Iraqi parliamentary Finance Committee, told Al-Monitor that while deleting zeros from the current currency is possible, this has been postponed until after parliamentary elections. He noted that studies are being carried out to ensure that, following the currency change, counterfeiting is limited and that Iraqis don’t go back to trading in the old currency.
The step to delete zeros from the currency has been postponed several times, leading the parliamentary Economic Committee to demand that the CBI accelerate this project, as Al-Sharqiya reported. In a news conference held July 6, the Economic Committee confirmed that the deletion of zeros will lead to an increase in the value of the Iraqi dinar and will have positive repercussions, including a reduction in unemployment and poverty rates in the country.
Nafee Elias, a financial advisor at the North Bank, told Al-Monitor that the step to delete zeros is merely an administrative process, and the currency equation should remain the same. This means that the purchasing power of the new currency should be equal to that of the old currency. He added that the two currencies should both remain in the market for a period not exceeding three years, then the old currency should be gradually withdrawn. Elias expected problems to arise if debtor-creditor transactions are not set according to the new currency, or there are defects in withdrawal or payment transactions. He added that it is unlikely the change will affect inflation or poverty rates.
Ahmed Faizullah, deputy head of the parliamentary Finance Committee, agreed with Elias. Speaking to Al-Monitor, he noted that the deletion of zeros will not affect the Iraqi dinar’s purchasing power, because the latter is linked to the size of industrial production and imports. He added that the CBI’s hard currency reserves have saved the Iraqi dinar and served as a cover for it. Faizullah called for not applying the project at the moment, because it will confuse Iraqis and disrupt the market.
Amid these views, Enas Mohamed, deputy director at Naseem Al Shemal Brokerage Company, told Al-Monitor that the stock market will be harmed the most by a change of currency and the deletion of zeros. The price of a share is one dinar, so currently 1,000 dinars are equal to 1,000 shares. Following the deletion of zeros, the new dinar will be equal to 1,000 shares, which would further confuse the stock market, which is already muddled as a result of the security situation.
Amina al-Dahabi is a political-economic researcher and reporter trained in the field of oil and energy journalism. She holds a doctorate in American Containment Policy.