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Iraq central bank eases dollar sale restrictions

Business is booming in Iraqi Kurdistan

The latest easing of restrictions also mean traders taking part in the central bank's dollar auctions will no longer be subject to money transfer quotas.


October 3, 2012 9:08 by

Iraq’s central bank has eased restrictions on the sale of dollars in a step likely to boost the dinar currency, officials said on Tuesday.

The central bank tightened rules in April over who could participate in its daily dollar auctions and the amount they could buy, seeking to stabilise the dinar and stem the illicit transfer of U.S. currency to neighbouring countries under sanctions.

Reversing those moves on Tuesday, the central bank said it would double lenders’ weekly share of cash and allow them to determine the price, which was previously fixed at 1,189 dinars to the dollar.

Iraq is recovering from decades of war and sanctions, and its economy is still very centralised. Oil accounts for 95 percent of government revenues.

The latest easing of restrictions also mean traders taking part in the central bank’s dollar auctions will no longer be subject to money transfer quotas.

The steps were taken because the dinar-dollar exchange rate is now stable and better implementation of anti-money laundering regulations will prevent dollars being sold on to countries under sanctions, Deputy Central Bank Governor Mudher Kasim said.

“We passed through a difficult experiment for a year but this experiment ended with a success,” Kasim told Reuters.

The dinar had come under strong downward pressure from traders snapping up dollars to sell on to Syria and Iran.

But measures designed to stop the trade drove up the value of the U.S. currency in the Iraqi market, hurting local businesses reliant on dollars to buy foreign imports.

The easing of the controls “will strengthen the dinar and eliminate the difference between the official and the secondary market price,” said Waleed Eedi, head of the central bank’s statistics and research department.

In May, the central bank allowed dollars to be sold at a fixed rate through two state-run banks, helping to push the dollar down from 1,280 dinars to 1,210 dinars and closing the gap between the official rate and the market price.

The CBI holds a daily auction at which it sells the dollar for 1,166 dinars while the market price was 1,200 dinars on Tuesday.



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