Trade Bank of Iraq joins IBBC

The Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) has re-joined the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

TBI were original founding members of IBBC and we are delighted to say they are now back in full participation mode, with President Dr Salem Chalabi taking a lead role at the recent IBBC Autumn conference Dubai. At the conference Dr Chalabi announced some key strategic changes to the bank’s strategy and delivery.

TBI have significant plans to evolve their operations not only in terms of extending branches to overseas locations, but also within Iraq, to enable corporate online banking and wider use of cross-border electronic payments, and the development of strategic partners for investment within and beyond Iraq. Key areas include investment in infrastructure and renewable energy.

Christophe Michels, MD of IBBC said:

We are really delighted to see the return of TBI to IBBC and know that our members in Iraq and internationally will welcome a modern Iraqi bank capable of cross-border and online banking in particular.

“We also recognise the importance of TBI as founder members of IBBC and the elevation of Dr Chalabi as CEO, with whom we foresee a productive and supportive engagement with IBBC and expanding the private sector in Iraq.

 (Source: IBBC)

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The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masrour Barzani, on Saturday met Baroness Emma Nicholson, President of the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

Prime Minister Barzani highlighted the reforms of the ninth cabinet, its bid to diversify the economy and crucially to make the Kurdistan Region a focal point for business.

Baroness Nicholson gave a briefing on the council’s work, especially its last conference which was held in Dubai and which concentrated on developing UK, Iraq, and Kurdistan Region trade relations.

(Source: KRG)

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Iraq Completes $685m Bond Issuance

By John Lee.

Iraq has successfully completed the sale of a 1-trillion-dinar (£685-million) construction bond issuance, also know as a “binaa bond“.

The Ministry of Finance issued the bonds for sale on the local financial market at the start of October, in two categories:

  1. IQD500,000 bonds with annual interest of 6 percent for two years; and,
  2. IQD1,000,000 bonds with annual interest of 7 percent for four years.

A statement from the Ministry said there was high demand for the bonds from citizens and banks.

(Source: Ministry of Finance)

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Iraq's Economic Update — October 2021

From the World Bank:

Economic growth is gradually recovering following last year’s pandemic-related contraction, partly due to higher non-oil activity.

Improved global oil market conditions are expected to reinforce growth in the medium term and turn the fiscal and external balances to surpluses from 2021, and to reverse the recent surge in debt.

Latest Developments:

The economy is gradually recovering from the double oil and COVID-19 shocks of 2020. In the first half of 2021 (H1-21), GDP grew by 0.9% year on year (y/y).

The non-oil economy grew by over 21% in H1-21 (y/y) owing to a solid performance in the services sectors (COVID-19 containment measures were eased, aided by a pick-up in the vaccination campaign and the decline in COVID infection positivity rate). This recovery outpaced the slowdown in the oil sector, down by 10% in H1-21, as Iraq adjusted to its OPEC+ quota early in the year.

Outlook:

The prospects of Iraq’s economy have improved with the recovery in global oil markets, but the spread of new COVID-19 variants and climate change challenges are significant headwinds. The economy is forecast to gradually recover on the back of rising oil prices and OPEC+ production quotas which are planned to be phased out in 2022.

Oil GDP will be the main driver of growth in the medium term. Non-oil GDP is forecast to recover but remain under 3% on average in 2021-23 due to the impact of the new COVID-19 Delta variant along with water and electricity shortages that impact agriculture and industries.

Under this scenario, the fiscal balance is forecast to remain in surplus in the medium term leading the debt-to-GDP ratio to steadily improve.

Please click here to download the full report.

(Source: World Bank)

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SaudiExIm in deal with National Bank of Iraq

By John Lee.

The Saudi Export-Import Bank (SaudiExIm) has reportedly signed an agreement with the National Bank of Iraq (NBI) to assist exporters of Saudi-sourced services and products supplying Iraq.

According to AsumeTech, the deal is valued at $25 million.

More here.

(Source: AsumeTech)

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FinTech in Iraq

By Mohammed Koperly (LLB, PstgD, MCIArb), for Al Nesoor Law.

One of the most significant worldwide developments during Covid-19 was the increase in consumer engagement in financial markets, many for the first time especially in Iraq. The coronavirus outbreak has acted as a catalyst for a digital revolution facilitated by financial technology (fintech).

As Iraq recovers from the Covid-19 epidemic, the city’s technology industry is booming with enthusiasm in the “new normal” economy, assisting corporations and people in tackling new business models.

In the rest of the world contactless payment has risen significantly, more People are adopting digital payment in their daily lives. Except for Iraq which still lacks the will power of the people to use Bank Cards in the first instance to make payments, this is due to lack of confidence in the financial regulations in Iraq.

The fintech space is not subject to specific legislative and regulatory provisions in Iraq as this is a new and emerging Market.

Fintech Entities are subject to specific complex ambiguous laws and regulations applying to banks, financial institutions, and insurance companies if they carry out such regulated activities.

Entities must seek legal guidance before operating in Iraq to determine any special registration or authorisation requirements, which vary depending on whether the fintech engages in a regulated business such as electronic payment services, which requires a license from the Central Bank of Iraq.

When considering operating in the FinTech Market of Iraq, it’s best to consider the below legal Acts and precedents.

Iraqi Banking laws and regulations:

  • Central Bank of Iraq Regulation (28/2/1994);
  • Central Bank Law (56/2004);
  • Banking Law (94/2004);
  • Financial Investment Companies Regulation (6/2011);
  • Central Bank of Iraq Regulation (611/14 of 2019)
  • Central Bank of Iraq Regulation (1/2018) as amended by Regulation 30/12/2019.

Iraqi Technology laws and regulations:

  • E-signature and E-transactions Law (78/2012); and
  • Electronic Payment Services System Regulation (3/2014)

Iraqi Technology laws and regulations:

  • E-signature and E-transactions Law (78/2012); and
  • Electronic Payment Services System Regulation (3/2014);

Other Iraqi laws and regulations:

  • Civil Code (40/1951);
  • Penal Code (111/1969);
  • Companies Law (21/1997);
  • Capital Markets Interim Law (74/2004);
  • Insurance Business Regulation (10/2005);
  • Consumer Protection Law (1/2010); and
  • Anti-money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Law (39/2015).

Iraq has not enacted a specific law to govern the fintech space but there are some legal doctrines which may apply to certain regulated activities carried out by fintech entities, e.g., “The provision of electronic payment services”. Based on the Electronic Payment Services System Regulation (3/2014), the providers of electronic payment services must obtain a licence from the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI).

The Supplier

The Central Bank of Iraq should issue a license to the supplier of such services. The license is valid for five consecutive years and can be renewed by the Provider by submitting a written request to the Central Bank of Iraq 90 days before the license expires.

The Supplier must be a legal entity that has the organisational and technical skills to operate the required mechanism, takes all measures to secure and protect electronic transactions, ensures that the Central Bank of Iraq can enter the used system at any time for supervision and control purposes, and has submitted an economic feasibility study to the Central Bank of Iraq.

The Benefactor may designate an agent or agents and authorise them to provide electronic payment services. The Provider must disclose to the Central Bank of Iraq all agent information, including name, address, internal control methods utilized by the agent, description of the services supplied by the agent, and any other information deemed required by the Central Bank of Iraq. The agent’s identity will be entered in a public record at the Central Bank of Iraq, and the Provider is required to notify the Central Bank of Iraq of any changes connected to the agent to be corrected in the above-mentioned record. The following duties of the Provider are specified in Article 16 of the Regulation (list of duties are provided in Annex 1).

If the Benefactor offers electronic payment services through mobile phone “App”, he is required to

  • Sign formal agreements with mobile operators and send copies to the CBI.
  • The payment procedure will take place within Iraq and in local currency which is Iraqi Dinars (IQD).
  • Account settlement via the instantaneous overall settlement system, or through a guarantor bank in the absence of a settlement bank account.

Responsible authority to enforcing the applicable laws and regulations?

  • The CBI is responsible for granting licences to institutions that conduct banking operations and to electronic payment service providers.
  • The Iraq Securities Commission is responsible for supervising the Iraq Stock Exchange and issuing laws relating to investment management activities and investment advice for brokers, banks, and securities companies.

As outlined by the Decision 14/611 of 2019 on governance and institutional management of information and communication technology in the banking industry, the Central Bank of Iraq has taken a favourable stance toward fintech. When interacting with cloud computing service providers, this judgment establishes certain standards that banks, financial institutions, and other licensed institutions must follow. Furthermore, the Electronic Payment Services System Regulation (3/2014) allows non-bank payment service providers to offer electronic payment services subject to a licence from the Central Bank of Iraq.

The Iraqi Central Bank has a negative perception on the use of cryptocurrency. It barred the usage of cryptocurrencies, which are subject to sanctions under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Law.

Fintech Industry in Iraq

The fintech business in Iraq will become massive in the upcoming years however it is currently limited to a few sub-sectors.

Online shopping, trading and electronic services, and smartphone applications are some of the “Hot” growing Information system fields that are maturing progressively.

In comparison to other nations in the middle east, Iraq is sluggish to adopt fintech, and overall investment in fintech market and the passage of associated regulations is low. This is attributable to a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • The significant number of the unbanked population – according to a World Bank Group only 23% of Iraqi households have access to a financial institution’s account. However, we do see a change regarding government employees who are now getting paid Via Master Card & bank accounts rather than the old cash payment procedure.
  • The relative cost of internet and mobile services to income, which limits demand for digital financial services
  • Due to worries about the security of online payments, Iraqis prefer cash on delivery in e-commerce transactions.

Although the use of mobile and electronic payment systems is growing, it is still not as widespread as it is in other nations in the region. Cash payment up on delivery when ordering goods online and money transfer “hawala” are the most prevalent payment options, with credit cards being used infrequently. Iraq’s primary underdeveloped areas are e-commerce (food, real estate, shipping, transportation, and travel services), e-banking, and digital payments.

Managing deposits and cash withdrawals through automated teller machines (ATMs), as well as executing electronic debit and credit payments, are among the electronic payment services authorized in Iraq. These electronic payments are performed using any type of digital communication and information technology, such as a network operator acting as a middleman between the user and the service provider, or any other receiver, via mobile phone transfers.

Electronic payment service providers with an Iraqi license may also facilitate to acquire bank loans that are delivered directly to the user’s credit card.

The typical structure of fintech companies

The E-signature and E-transactions Law governs electronic transactions in Iraq. Online and technology enterprises, on the other hand, are not regulated in Iraq. This means that unless they have a physical office address in Iraq, e-commerce sites and mobile applications are not legally deemed enterprises. As a result, most tech start-ups choose to register their firms as “bricks and mortar” businesses in order to gain legal legitimacy.

Fintech services are also supplied by banks that operate under the supervision of the Iraqi Central Bank (CBI).

Regulations

Article 27 of the Electronic Signature & Electronic Transactions Law No. 78 of 2012, which states that the electronic transfers of money should be regulated by a regulation that to be suggested by the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), the Iraqi Council of Ministers issued Regulation No. 3 of 2014 regarding the Electronic Payment Services of Money (The “Regulation”).

This Regulation covers all the electronic payment activities including issuing the electronic payment tools, managing the deposits and cash withdrawals through ATMs and selling points, implementing of electronic payment processes (payable and receivable) that their money be guaranteed by the credit of the services user or by any means of digital communications or information technology, and implementing of electronic payment processes in accordance with the overall settlement system or the clearing mechanism system.

Please click here to download this article in pdf format.

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Economist Recommends Re-Valuing Iraqi Dinar

By John Lee.

An Iraqi economist has said that re-valuing the Iraqi Dinar could be considered if certain conditions were met.

Dhurgham Mohamed Ali is quoted by Shafaq News as saying:

The exchange rate of the dollar should be gradually reduced to 1,300 dinars [from the current 1,460 dinars] while keeping an eye on the cash transactions to preclude creating a black market, dollar smuggling, and tighten the control over imports.

“The outcomes of the devaluation were detrimental. The inflation rates grew, poverty rates soared, while development rates remained static and foreign currency smuggling exacerbated.

The change proposed would increase the value of the dinar by just over 12 percent.

More here.

(Source: Shafaq News)

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As a measure of confidence in the global and Iraqi economy, the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) is seeing a marked upswing in quality and quantity of speakers at the Autumn Conference at the Address hotel, Dubai 22nd November.

The topic, in line with COP26 and the new energy horizon, is one of sustainability. Not only is this a key question for the oil and gas sector in Iraq, but also for the diversification of the economy and sustainable finances and industrial sectors within the country. With the hope of formation of a new government and stronger oil prices and government revenues, this could be described as a critical juncture in the evolution of Iraq.

Will the Government make the bold reform steps its people require? Can the economy diversify and enable the private sector to flourish? How will Iraq reform its energy sector and inflect towards renewable power, and develop its agricultural intentions at a time of water scarcity? How best to train and employ the many young people in the short term and how can the digital transformation of Iraq be delivered.

The Oil Minister H.E Ihsan Abdul Jabbar Ismaael intends to attend, along with Dr Salem Chalabi President of TBI, the Iraqi Ambassador to UAE, the British Ambassador to Iraq, and HM Consul General to Middle East. There is a very strong showing among IBBC members, leading IOC’s including BP, TotalEnergies, and Basra Gas Company, and major suppliers to the Energy Sector such as Hydro-C and Oilserv and the ability to meet their CEO’s at the event.

Professor Frank Gunter will give his insightful analysis of the economic outlook for Iraq and the steps to reform it must take to create a sustainable economy.

Finance too is fielding heavyweight speakers from IFC, Standard Chartered, Sardar Group (Principal Sponsors), Emirates credit insurance and a representative Director General of the Finance Ministry. Of particular interest are companies dedicated to supporting reform in Iraq, notably City and Guilds via GEMs and Stirling Education who are setting up international level qualifications for Iraqi companies for the first time, to raise standards and opportunities for Iraqi companies and youth, and SAP who are dedicated to the digital transformation of Iraq and will be outlining their vision and practical steps to achieve this. Both skills and digital applications are key drivers of a sustainable economy and take centre stage in this respect.

On the Industry Panel we see Dahlia Energy, Sardar Group, Al Busttan and Khudairi discussing the diversification of the economy and how they can help sustain momentum into the future, with their forward-looking businesses.

In parallel the online Tech conference is addressing data and its benefit to Government, business and the citizen. Sponsored by SAP, who will lead on the benefits of data in digital transformation, complimented by UK’s GDS, Mastercard on smart cities, UK’s Agri-epicentre and British Water and Serco; all leaders in their fields and passionate about the benefits of technology and data in delivering sustainable future economies.

For companies looking to meet the main business leaders in Iraq, this really is a conference to attend. Not only to meet Government officials and ministers, but also the leading supply chain organisations and IOC’s and to learn about the future opportunities and likely evolution of Iraq’s economy. To this end there is a pre-conference reception the night before at the Iraqi pavilion Dubai Expo 2020, and many opportunities to interact with delegates during lunch and coffee breaks, as well as the ability to sign up to view the conference online.

For more information and the latest speaker line up- please go to: IBBC Autumn Conference – IBBC (iraqbritainbusiness.org)

About the sponsors:

Saradar Group: Principal sponsors

With more than 30 years of rich experience in the automotive sector, Sardar Group became the leading group in the Automotive Sector in Iraq. Their intimate knowledge of the Iraqi market helped import, stock and sell the right brands, types, and models, while their excellent reputation, track record and credibility have helped grow the business times many over since 2003.

Since 2005 with a desire to move from Automobile Trading to providing its customers with all-round Automotive Solutions, Sardar Group started utilizing the synergies of its existing operations to diversify its automotive business activities to include Trading, Leasing of Vehicles, Equipment & Machinery and most importantly Aftersales Service Support.

Today, Sardar Group represents world-renowned automotive brands and heavy construction equipment & machinery exemplified in the following brands:

  • Toyota & Hino (in partnership with Sumitomo Corporation)
  • Jaguar
  • Land Rover
  • Polaris
  • Doosan
  • TOTO

Hydro-C : Gold Sponsors

Hydro-C is catalysing the transition of fossil fuel-based energy to renewables by means of introducing sustainable green solutions into the industry to decarbonise operations and projects, and maintain profitable output. The company plan to focus on Solar, Wind and Hydro powers as a source of energy to achieve net Zero with energy providers and IOCs by 2050 in Iraq. By trading the UK innovative solutions and replicating successful projects which can cut on emissions and support sustainable growth. The company focus is on investing in the young generation, education, new technologies and innovations to support this transition.

SAP: Gold Sponsors

SAP is one of the world’s leading producers of software for the management of business processes, developing solutions that facilitate effective data processing and information flow across organizations. SAP helps companies and organizations of all sizes and industries run their businesses profitably, adapt continuously, and grow sustainably. With a global network of customers, partners, employees, and thought leaders, SAP helps the world run better and improves people’s lives. SAP is the market leader in enterprise application software, helping companies of all sizes and in all industries run at their best: 77% of the world’s transaction revenue touches an SAP system. SAP’s machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced analytics technologies help turn customers’ businesses into intelligent enterprises. Their end-to-end suite of applications and services enables its customers to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and make a different

City&Guilds/ GEMS: Gold Sponsors

City and Guilds was Founded in 1878 and Granted a Royal Charter by Queen Victoria in 1900.

Global leader in skills development. 4 million people each year use City and Guilds to develop skills that help them into a job, develop on that job and prepare for their next job. Global Benchmark operating in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and UAE

Vocational Education / City and Guilds Models in Iraq:

  • To Partner with Training Institutions for delivery of City and Guilds qualifications – pathway to work programmes with curricula developed by employers.
  • Accredit employers’ own training so employees can obtain internationally recognised qualifications.
  • Partner with Iraqi investors to set up Private Technical and Vocational Institutions that deliver City and Guild qualifications.

Operational in Baghdad, Basra, Erbil and exploring a project in Najaf.

Serco: Silver Sponsors

Serco is managing Air Traffic control systems in Iraq and internationally. In the Middle East, Serco employs more than 4,500 people across four countries including the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iraq

Basra Gateway Terminal: Bronze Sponsors

Basra Gateway Terminal (BGT) is Iraq’s premier container and multi-purpose cargo handling facility. It is situated in Umm Qasr, 50 km from Basra and 500 km from Baghdad.

Operated by International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), BGT’s team of high-performing Iraqi and International port professionals deliver customer-focused, high productivity and congestion-free port services to Iraq’s economy.

Bell Finance LLC: Bronze Sponsors

Bell Finance Limited Liability Company was created in the US State of Delaware in July 2019 to build upon the Iraq Middle Market Development Foundation’s lending and educational activities in Iraq since 2005 (www.immdf.org). Bell will continue IMMDF’s lending activities by co-financing with Iraqi banks qualifying private sector projects that generate employment and economic growth in Iraq, incorporating Iraqi private sector companies as equity partners. Bell will also continue and expand IMMDF’s educational activities in Iraq.

(Source: IBBC)

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IFC, National Bank of Iraq Partner to Boost Access to Finance for SMEs, Create Jobs

To support the growth of smaller businesses in Iraq and help them create jobs and overcome challenges, including from COVID-19-related disruptions, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has announced an investment for the National Bank of Iraq (NBI).

IFC’s $10 million loan to NBI will allow the bank to increase lending to small businesses in Iraq across a range of sectors. IFC will also provide NBI with advisory services support to help it reach more small and medium enterprise (SMEs) clients and better serve them.

A World Bank report found that about 60 percent of jobs in Iraq are in the private sector and that SMEs are responsible for most of them. Even so, smaller businesses in the country face numerous challenges, including lack of liquidity.

Speaking about IFC’s loan to NBI, Chairman of NBI Bassem Khalil Al-Salem said:

“In Iraq, SMEs play a critical role in the national economy, and with the funds from IFC’s loan, the National Bank of Iraq will be able to continue its consistent support of this vital sector through increased financing and working capital, which will, in turn, propel business activity, preserve jobs and ensure further economic stability.”

Abdullah Jefri, IFC’s country manager for the Levant region, said:

“Supporting small and medium enterprises is vital to diversifying Iraq’s economy, creating jobs, spurring sustainable economic growth and shared prosperity, especially in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a heavy impact on the SMEs revenues and operations in Iraq.”

The loan announced today includes support of up to $1 million from the Global SME Finance Facility (GSMEF), a blended finance partnership funded by the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. This new loan follows a loan of $10 million IFC extended to NBI in 2020, also made in support of SMEs in Iraq.

IFC has committed $970 million to support Iraq’s private sector since 2005, with its current committed portfolio standing at about $121 million in sectors including energy, telecom, and banking.

(Source: IFC)

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Further $490m Paid to Kuwait for Invasion by Iraq

The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) has made available $490 million to the Government of the State of Kuwait towards the Commission’s remaining claim with an outstanding award balance.

The United Nations Compensation Commission is a subsidiary organ of the United Nations Security Council. It was established in 1991 in accordance with Security Council resolutions 687 (1991) and 692 (1991) to process claims and pay compensation for losses and damages incurred by individuals, corporations, Governments and international organizations as a direct result of Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait (2 August 1990 to 2 March 1991).

The Commission received approximately 2.7 million claims and concluded its review of all claims in 2005. Approximately $52.4 billion was awarded to over 100 Governments and international organizations for distribution to the successful 1.5 million claims in all claim categories.

Successful claims are paid from the United Nations Compensation Fund which receives a percentage of the proceeds generated by the export sales of Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products.

This rate was set at five per cent under Security Council resolution 1483 (2003) and reaffirmed in subsequent resolutions. Pursuant to Governing Council decision 276 adopted in November 2017, the percentage was set at 0.5 per cent for 2018, 1.5 per cent for 2019 and 3 per cent for 2020.

The rate will remain at 3 per cent until such time as the outstanding compensation has been paid in full. Payments are made on a quarterly basis utilizing all available funds in the Compensation Fund under Governing Council decision 267 (2009).

With today’s payment, the Commission has paid $51.8 billion, leaving approximately $629 million to be paid towards the outstanding claim. This category E claim was submitted by the Government of the State of Kuwait on behalf of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and awarded $14.7 billion in 2000 for oil production and sales losses as a result of damages to Kuwait’s oil field assets. It represents the largest award by the Commission.

(Source: United Nations Compensation Commission)

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