Experts discuss fate of the Iraqi Dinar

By John Lee.

At a webinar hosted by the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) yesterday, a team of experts presented and discussed their insights on the Iraqi government’s recent White Paper, and on the challenges and opportunities facing the country.

On the subject of the Iraqi currency, Frank Gunter, Professor of Economics at Lehigh University, commented:

As the international reserves of Iraq decrease … this is going to put pressure for a depreciation or loss of value of the dinar … and that might be a good thing.

“The dinar was deliberately appreciated, increased in value, by almost 20 percent. It has made exports from Iraq uncompetitive; it has led to a huge amount of imports into Iraq because the foreign products are so cheap.

“Maybe a possible reaction to the fiscal constraint is to devalue the dinar, so that every dollar of oil sales will buy more dinar, which will allow payment of the salaries and pensions and the infrastructure.

While agreeing that the dinar was overvalued, Hadi Al Damirji, of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, urged some caution, in case a devaluation would lead to a further run on the dinar:

“I totally agree with the philosophy of keeping the dinar lower, but when is the right time to move it?”

Suggesting a conrolled devaluation, in combination with incentives to reduce public sector salary commitments, Shwan Aziz, former Chief of staff to the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, said:

“[We must] protect those groups that have dinars in the banks, or those contractors who have not been paid for so many years … [but] controlled devaluation, it seems, is unavoidable.”

For more information, and a link to the full discussion, please click here.

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Successful IBBC Conference in Dubai

IBBC’s 5th Annual Iraq Conference in Dubai – Opportunity in Adversity

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) was much praised at its conference on Thursday for pioneering in COVID-19 times by bringing together senior officials from Iraq, the UAE and the UK, prominent international and Iraqi businessmen, bankers and professional advisers as speakers and over 100 delegates.

With the Address Hotel as host venue implementing the strictest hygiene regime and using video links, delegates enjoyed a day of vigorous analysis and debate about the issues currently creating the adverse conditions dominating the Iraqi political and business landscape and what measures were needed to improve matters, but nevertheless inspirational presentations highlighted success stories across a number of sectors in panel sessions covering energy, finance, infrastructure/logistics and tech.

Highlights of the day were presentations made by Mrs Zena Yousif Iraq consul general in Dubai, the first woman to ever hold that position, and the fact that all the leaders of the energy companies presenting were Iraqi nationals for the first time ever, namely Mr Zaid Elyaseri, Vice President Iraq from BP, Mr Ali Al Janabi, Chairman, from Shell, Mr Musab Alkateeb, Managing Director, from Siemens Energy, and all were addressing common global issues currently affecting that sector – low oil and gas prices, environmental and green issues.

Mr Aziz Khudairi, Chairman of the Khudairi Group with multiple businesses in Iraq urged the Iraqi Government to embrace the private sector to grow prosperity in Iraq and to provide employment for the millions of young Iraqis, to protect Iraqi businesses from unfair dumping by foreign competitors, but in return emphasised the need for the Iraqi workforce to rediscover a work ethic so that Iraqi companies would become efficient and profitable.

Baroness Nicholson made her Welcome Address by video link from London and at the end of the day announced the new annual award to be made to an Iraqi SME for its contribution to business in Iraq, in memory of the recently deceased Engineer Rasmi al Jabri, IBBC deputy chairman.

Amongst the many excellent speakers were:

  • H.E. Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, UAE
  • H.E. Dr Abdulkariem Al Faisal, Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Commission
  • Mrs Zena Yousif, Consulate General of Iraq in Dubai
  • Mr Simon Penny, Her Majesty’s UK Trade Commissioner for the Middle East

Conference Sponsors were Basra Gateway Terminal, Siemens Energy and Serco.

Vikas Handa of Gulftek, Conference chairman said:

Today’s IBBC conference in Dubai is the testimony of human resilience on the face of adversity. We had unexpected turnout & great participation from the ministers, industry leaders and businesses from Iraq, UAE & UK.

“We covered a lot of ground to chart the way forward, network & learn from each other. I along with IBBC MD Christophe Michels would like to thank our key members for their unwavering support to make it happen.

In parallel

The Tech Forum took place online, with participants from Iraq, UK, Dubai and France, to review and discuss the digitisation of Iraq, based on the World Bank’s Report in April.

Chaired by Ashley Goodall of IBBC, we reviewed how the Government of Iraq ( GOI ) and digital development in general has been evolving since April, as Alexandre Laure, the World bank Sector specialist, who wrote the report – shared with us areas of development : namely, 6 key areas : Digital inclusion, banking and finance, Investment, Infrastructure, SMEs and start-ups, skill development and linking to external digital organisations. Two areas of progress include the establishment of a Tech fund for start-ups and SME investment, and the payment of Government salaries directly to bank accounts digitally. Additionally, there are areas of deregulation for start -ups and new businesses, although the registration cost of $37500 was deemed exclusionary for most start-ups.

Jawad Abbasi of GSMA MENA said that 4G infrastructure is critical in extending internet across Iraq, and this has been put on hold for the moment. This would increase the ability of users to trade, exchange and create new products on-line, as well as boost the digital economy. Yazen Altimimi CEO of Zain Cash echoed this issue as Zain are often blamed for poor internet experience, when it’s an infrastructure issue. Zain’s consumer uptake is rapid and there is a healthy growth and interest in the digital economy as a business and consumer medium. If 4G can be delivered the economy will see a rapid upswing. In short there is pent up demand and an appetite from consumers to transact on- line, so it makes sense to deliver 4G to ensure the whole economy expands.

Laura Oliver, director of Iraq Tech Ventures, amplified the issue for start -ups and SME.s who want to trade on line, and the raised the issue of the high cost of registration that prohibits start-ups registering formally, and therefore rely on the cash economy, so they are unable to get formal credit and investment. These two issues, of 4G and registration should be straight forward to address and would make a big different to the overall digital development of the Iraqi economy, and encourage investment from external digital companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google.

In a second panel: Online Consumer behaviour, Caroline McGarr of ThinkBank – a leading research agency in Irbil, presented key finding among Iraqi consumers between 18-45, and again found a big demand for consumer goods, banking on line for an unbanked 83% of the population. In sectors such as Fashion, health and social media there is enormous pent up demand as over 50% of these people spend over 5 hours a day on-line. Again, the issue of reliable internet, useful apps and products to purchase and reliability of banking, echo the first panel’s concerns.

The overall message from both panels is that there is huge unmet demand among youthful Iraqi’s for more services, better internet, better banking (trust) and online interaction with Government and products that will be better served by better internet and the proliferation of new goods and services from SMEs and start-ups, who themselves are constrained by registration fees and investment.

A full video of the sessions, including the presentation charts can be viewed here

For more information please contact london@webuildiraq.org

(Source: IBBC)

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Int'l Financial Alliance forms to Help Iraq

By Salam Zidane for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

International financial alliance forms to help Iraq

Several countries are forming an economic alliance to help Iraq in its financial crisis.

Click here to read the full story.

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Iraq Reparations to Kuwait Extended to 2022

By John Lee.

The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), which was established to pay compensation for losses and damage as a direct result of Iraq’s unlawful invasion of Kuwait in 1990, has made available $230 million to the Government of Kuwait towards the Commission’s remaining claim with an outstanding award balance.

With this payment, the Commission has paid out $50 billion of the $52.4 billion in awarded compensation, leaving approximately $2.4 billion to be paid to the only claim with an outstanding award balance.

The Commission had been on track to pay the outstanding compensation award in 2021. In light of the effects of the pandemic, the Council noted that the timeline for the completion of the Compensation Commission’s mandate is now expected to extend into 2022.

Funds to pay compensation are drawn from the United Nations Compensation Fund, which currently receives 3 per cent of the proceeds generated by the export sales of Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products.

(Source: UNCC)

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Why you should come to the IBBC Conference in Dubai, entitled ‘Opportunity in Adversity’

On 19th November the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) is holding its Autumn conference in person at the Address hotel Dubai Marina.

Some would say it’s a brave decision, considering COVID, but others are keen to take up the challenge and opportunity to engage, meet, listen to expert business voices of Iraq and overall have proper opportunities for networking.

Not only do we have a good level of members signed up to attend, but also one of the strongest line ups of speakers, ready and willing to address the opportunities for Iraq in 2020.

The backdrop to this conference is not just COVID, but the election of a new American President, rising oil prices, a fundamental change in the way oil and gas companies are globally which will also affect their work in Iraq, a Government willing and able to make significant changes, in the way finance operates, investors can start up and a white paper that will impact a range of activity and on-going digital modernisation.

All these topics will be covered, and we are expecting significant speakers and attendees from our membership and the Ministry of Oil, the Deputy Minister of Electricity, and online from the World Bank, Central Bank payments director and Ministry of Communications, Mastercard and Zain Cash to name a few.

You can hear about one of the biggest changes as the oil and gas companies redefine themselves as Energy companies, and vertically integrate fuel with electricity generation. BP, Shell, Siemens and Ministry of Electricity will address this and other matters on the Energy panel.

On the Finance panel, we are looking at how to operate successfully in the present very challenging financial situation of the country. New proposals by the Government’s white paper will also be discussed and how these align with the need of private sector.

Finally, the Tech Forum with the World Bank on the digitisation of Iraq, the progress that is being made with GOI, and to hear from Mastercard and GSMA and Thinkbank on consumer online behaviour and attitudes.

Now is a great opportunity for change and we believe Iraq won’t let the opportunity go to waste. Iraq is at a critical inflection point and the Government understands the importance of encouraging the private sector as a vehicle to solving investment, jobs and diversifying the economy at this time, which is why we are expecting a strong attendance from members and speakers alike from sectors crucial to Iraq’s future.

As we look to the coming year, we see a Government making good decisions, investing in large projects, understanding the importance of diversifying its economy and also providing work and opportunity to its young population.

Now is the time to turn up, attend and make plans for the future of Iraq, and we look forward to welcoming you.

Please register here:

https://iraqbritainbusiness.org/event/ibbc-autumn-conference-at-the-address-hotel-dubai-marina

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The Iraqi government’s proposal to shrink public-sector payrolls and pension costs as part of efforts to reduce fiscal imbalances and ease financing strains could slow the depletion of foreign-exchange reserves, but will be tough to implement and risks aggravating social unrest, says Fitch Ratings.

More here.

(Source: Fitch)

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iGrafx and ProServ support National Bank of Iraq

By John Lee.

iGrafx, a provider of business process management solutions, has announced that it has implemented Iraq’s first Enterprise Business Process Management (EBPM) solution with the National Bank of Iraq (NBI).

The National Bank of Iraq was founded in 1995 as a publicly traded private company providing comprehensive banking services for individuals and companies in Iraq.

The CEO of the National Bank of Iraq, Ayman Abu Dhaim, said:

“The use of the iGrafx  platform is a milestone on our path to digital innovation. The customers are the focus of this strategy, so this not only optimizes our internal processes, but also improves the customer experience enormously.”

According to a statement from iGrafx, the project was implemented together with its partner ProServ (Abu Dhabi).

(Source: iGrafx)

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