Monday, June 23, 2008
This is what I predict to happen when Obama becomes president.
I predict that this will be one of the first things that Obama does within the first 6 months of his presidency. End our involvement in Iraq, and help Iraq establish worldwide buying power by having their currency worth something.
By giving Iraq buying power, Iraq could purchase the resources to rebuild their own society. It would give companies a chance to become established and grow. Unemployment will decline as more and more Iraqis become employed. It just seems like the logical thing to do.
Just don't say I told you so.
Friday, June 20, 2008
"You have been ordered to Iraq (i - RAHK) as part of the world-wide offensive to beat Hitler. You will enter Iraq both as a soldier and as an individual. That is our strength—if we are smart enough to use it. It can be our weakness if we aren't."
Thus begins "A Short Guide To Iraq" issued to every U.S. soldier entering the theater in 1943 to assist British units guarding against Nazi infiltration. If only U.S. military personnel from 2003 on had something similar. Indeed, U.S. army commander and counterterrorism expert John Nagl writes in an introduction to this reprint, "I wish that I had read it before beginning my own yearlong tour in Al Anbar in late 2003!"
The 44-page booklet is the most succinct summation of Iraqi culture for Americans anywhere anytime. It may shock readers to know how much has changed—an Iraqi dinar worth four U.S. dollars in 1943 is today worth .004 U.S. dollars. And to know how much remains the same: "That tall man in the flowing robe you are going to see soon, with the whiskers and the long hair, is a first-class fighting man, highly skilled in guerrilla warfare."
Thursday, June 19, 2008
| The priceless archaeological treasures of Mesopotamia are still being plundered |
Beirut, 16 May 2008
When US forces stormed Baghdad on April 8, 2003 and, in a carefully staged propaganda stunt, tore down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square, the first center of the former regime the GIs occupied was the Oil Ministry. That pretty much demonstrated what the Americans' priorities were when they invaded the previous month.
As the grunts cordoned off the ministry, across town gangs were already rampaging through the 18 galleries of the Iraqi National Museum in a looting frenzy. They broke into storage vaults and steel cases to pillage priceless treasures from mankind's first civil societies, the birthplace of the written word, codified laws, organized religion, science, war and agriculture.
Iraq's National Museum was founded in 1926 by Gertrude Bell, the intrepid British explorer and administrator.
It was arguably the most important repository of antiquities, chronicling more than 8,500 years of human history. The region is known as the cradle of civilization, where in 3,500 BC the first cities arose in a cluster across lower Mesopotamia - "the land between the two rivers," the Euphrates and the Tigris.
As US forces toppled Saddam in 2003, then-US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld voiced the Bush administration's attitude toward the plundering. "Stuff happens," Rumsfeld grumbled when questioned about the looting. "Freedom's untidy and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." Not much has changed.
Donny George Youkhanna, Iraq's most prominent archaeologist and National Museum director in 2003, called the looting "the crime of the century." He said that some 14,000 objects, a dozen of them "world-class masterpieces," were plundered from the museum. Fewer than half have been located and some of the most prized treasures have vanished into the hidden world of the private art collector, possibly never to be seen again.
George, who was also president of the state board of antiquities and heritage, was forced to flee with his family to Syria on August 27, 2006, thence to the US, because of alleged threats from the Shiite Islamists who by then ran Iraq. He is now visiting professor of anthropology at Stony Brook State University in New York.
The looting of the museum went on for five days, April 8-12, before US troops were deployed around the building. The looters - some clearly organized to go after specific treasures, presumably for sale to rapacious collectors prepared to pay top dollar - then fanned out across a country plunged into chaos by the invasion and the collapse of the Baath regime. Museums in other cities, such as Mosul in the north and Babylon in the south, were looted or torched and irreplaceable Islamic books, maps and manuscripts disappeared or went up in smoke.
Five years later, robber gangs still loot Iraq's cultural heritage at the estimated 11,000 archaeological sites across the country, with dealers buying the protection of the clans who control large tracts of the country. A 1,400-strong Mobile Archaeological Site Protection Force was mustered in 2006 but it proved to totally ineffective - usually outgunned by the gangs, its men poorly paid and motivated. Security officials estimate that it would take a force of 50,000-75,000 to protect the sites properly - and there's little prospect of that amid the chaos of Iraq.
The robber groups are highly organized, sometimes heavily armed, often numbering 200-300 men, and, archaeological experts say, often financed by unscrupulous foreign dealers. They are ripping apart these sites, some of which had not even been officially excavated. Some of these illicit digs are family affairs, with impoverished Iraqis seeking to make a few dollars from pottery shards and other relics.
Most are massive quarrying operations with bulldozers, mechanical diggers and dump trucks. They are operating in broad daylight with virtual impunity since protecting these sites is low on US security priorities. Many of the plundered sites are now barren, cratered moonscapes because of the holes dug by the looters.
This rape of Mesopotamia's fabled history, archaeologists say, is probably more devastating than the pillaging of the museums because priceless artifacts that cast light on mankind's origins are being lost, so that experts cannot piece together how ancient societies developed.
"We may never know how many Gilgamesh-like epics have been lost," lamented Mehiyar Kathem, a fundraiser for the Cultural Heritage Awareness Initiative, a project of the Baghdad-based educational non-governmental organization Culture For All. He calls the wholesale looting "one of the greatest catastrophes to befall humanity."
McGuire Gibson, a professor of Mesopotamian history at the University of Chicago who has led major archaeological projects in Iraq, estimated in early 2007 that up to 15,000 objects were being taken daily from these sites.
Few of the plundered sculptures, gold and silver jewelry and 5,000-year-old cuneiform tablets - clay blocks containing the world's earliest known writing - are likely to show up on the open antiquities market because they are well known and lists of the stolen items have been circulated to recognized dealers and auction houses.
The stolen items will be sold on the black market for millions of dollars. Gibson noted that, before last month - when Damascus handed over 700 looted pieces confiscated while being transported across into Syria - "maybe two" of the 4,000 items stolen from Iraqi museums since the 1991 Gulf War have been recovered.
Matthew Bogdanos, a New York assistant district attorney and a colonel in the US Marine Corps reserve who served in Iraq in 2003, said on March 18 that the smuggling of stolen antiquities was helping finance insurgent groups in Iraq.
Bogdanos has been praised by archaeological experts for being one of the few US officers who made any attempt to protect the National Museum in Baghdad and recover stolen antiquities. During a two-day United Nations conference in Athens on returning antiquities to their countries of origin, Bogdanos said there were "undeniable" links between the smuggling and extremist groups.
"The Taliban uses opium to finance their activities in Afghanistan," he said. "Well, they don't have opium in Iraq. What they have an almost limitless supply of is antiquities."
Archaeologists and historians believe that employees, who knew where the most precious objects were located, perpetrated the most sophisticated looting of the National Museum. Bogdanos has no doubts.
"It's well known, well proven that much of the theft from the museum were from museum insiders and senior government officials," he said. "That's clear. Not all of it by any means, but much of it."
Security officials are skeptical about the extent that profits from the illicit sale of antiquities fund the insurgency. Donny George talks of "a huge mafia for smuggling antiquities" and says "there are a lot of people inside Iraq" near the plundered sites "buying these things from the looters there. They're not Iraqis. They're Europeans." Other corrupt dealers, he says, have operated from Iran, Turkey, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
George said that the looters who plundered the National Museum "knew what they wanted. These were not random looters. They had glass cutters and even sets of keys which they left behind. The replica items, which would have looked real to a mob, were untouched."
According to Lebanese archaeologist Joanne Farchakh-Bajjaly - a tireless campaigner for international action to help staunch this archaeological catastrophe, who helped document the stolen treasures - says the looters have ransacked sites of 4,000-year-old Sumerian cities in the south.
"In the Nassariyya area alone, there are about 840 Sumerian sites. They have all been systematically looted," she said. The robber gangs have not spared "one meter of these Sumerian capitals that have been buried under the sand for thousands of years.
"They systematically destroyed the remains of this civilization in their tireless search for sellable artifacts ... Humankind is losing its past for a cuneiform tablet or a sculpture or piece of jewelry that the dealer buys and pays for in cash in a country devastated by war."
Farchakh warns that the looting is eradicating the ancient history of Mesopotamia. These days, she says, "the robbers are destroying everything because they're going down to bedrock. What's new is that the looters are becoming more and more organized, apparently with lots of money.
"Quite apart from this, military operations are damaging these sites forever. There's been a US base at Ur for five years and the walls are cracking because of the weight of military vehicles. It's like putting an archaeological site under a continuous earthquake."
|Last Updated ( Friday, 16 May 2008 )|
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Crude oil prices are set to steadily rise over the next four years and will take the earnings of major oil companies along for the ride, UBS told investors Thursday.
The firm now sees crude oil prices averaging $115 a barrel this year and reaching an average of $156 a barrel in 2012. This will benefit major oil companies including Chevron Corp. (CVX), which it upgraded to buy, as well as oil service and drilling companies, several at which UBS started coverage Thursday also with buy ratings.
The move marks a major switch in UBS' view of crude oil prices, which it had expected to pull back in the face of reduced demand due to concerns about a recession in the U.S. Goldman Sachs also raised its expectations for the oil market last week - both firms revised their views upward as benchmark crude futures in New York rose by around a third in just the past three months.
Goldman last week put forward two scenarios for the oil market - either a "super spike" to as high as $200 a barrel over the next two years before dropping precipitously to a "normalized" price of $75 a barrel in 2011, or a more gradual ramp-up in average prices to $120 a barrel by 2010, and lasting for a few years before falling again.
UBS' view seems to cut the difference between Goldman's scenarios - the firm sees crude marching steadily higher to an average of $156 a barrel by 2012, with its normalized price reaching $96 a barrel in 2013, or $82 a barrel in today's dollars. The normalized price represents an estimated minimum producers need to charge in order to generate enough returns to stay in business.
UBS analyst William Featherston said that it's not speculators who are pushing prices higher, but the long-term fundamentals of demand growing faster than supply. Recently, prices have been pushed higher for a variety of reasons, he said, including critical supply setbacks in non-OPEC countries as well as interruptions in Nigeria, a cut-off of exports from southern Iraq and higher than expected demand outside the U.S.
In addition to Chevron, UBS believes other oil majors are set to benefit from these trends, and it recommended investors buying (in order of preference): Occidental Petroleum Corp. (OXY), Apache Corp. (APA), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM).
The firm also started coverage with buy ratings at oil service, drilling and equipment firms Transocean Inc. (RIG), Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. (DO), Noble Corp. (NE), Ensco International Inc. (ESV), Atwood Oceanics Inc. (ATW) and Rowan Cos. (RDC).
The firm also increased the allocation of energy companies in the portfolio strategy it recommends to investors to account for its more bullish view of oil prices.
Benchmark crude prices closed Wednesday at $124.22 a barrel and traded up about 1% premarket Thursday.Last Updated ( Friday, 16 May 2008 )
Demand for the dollar was down in the Iraqi Central Bank's auction on Wednesday, registering at $134.695 million compared to $157.795 million on Tuesday.
"The demand hit $6.935 million in cash and $127.760 million in money transfers outside the country, all covered by the bank at an exchange rate of 1,200 Iraqi dinars per dollar, stable for the fifth consecutive session" according to the central bank's daily bulletin which was received by Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI).
None of the 15 banks that participated in the auction offered to sell dollars.
Speaking to VOI, Ali al-Yasseri, a trader, said that although the demand in today’s session was down, it remained relatively high.
The Iraqi Central Bank runs a daily auction from Sunday to Thursday.Last Updated ( Thursday, 15 May 2008 )
Demand for the dollar was up in the Iraqi Central Bank's auction on Tuesday, registering at$157.795 million compared to $69.120 million on Monday.
"The demand hit $6.315 million in cash and $151.480 million in money transfers outside the country, all covered by the bank at an exchange rate of 1,200 Iraqi dinars per dollar, stable for the fourth consecutive session" according to the central bank's daily bulletin which was received by Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI).
The 16 banks that participated in the auction offered to sell $1.200 million, which the bank bought at an exchange rate of 1,198 dinars per dollar.
Speaking to VOI, Ali al-Yasseri, a trader, said that the increase was due to the high remittances in today’s session while the bids in cash decreased in the past three sessions.
The Iraqi Central Bank runs a daily auction from Sunday to Thursday.Last Updated ( Wednesday, 14 May 2008 )
| Baghdad, 13 May 2008 |
Demand for the dollar was up in the Iraqi Central Bank's auction on Monday, registering at $69.120 million compared to $35.400 million on Sunday.
"The demand hit $8.470 million in cash and $60.650 million in money transfers outside the country, all covered by the bank at an exchange rate of 1,200 Iraqi dinars per dollar, stable for the third consecutive session" according to the central bank's daily bulletin which was received by Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI).
The 12 banks that participated in the auction offered to sell $1.300 million, which the bank bought at an exchange rate of 1,198 dinars per dollar.
Speaking to VOI, Ali al-Yasseri, a trader, said that the increase in the overall demand for the dollar was expected on Monday, where the central bank usually changes its exchange rate and most foreign remittances are made.
“The increase was made only in remittances while the cash decreased in the past two sessions,” he added.
The Iraqi Central Bank runs a daily auction from Sunday to Thursday.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 13 May 2008 )|
Demand for the dollar was dramatically up in the Iraqi Central Bank's auction on Thursday, reaching $164.635 million compared to $54.635 million on Wednesday.
"The demand hit $10.665 million in cash and $153.970 million in foreign transfers outside the country, all covered by the bank at an exchange rate of 1,200 Iraqi dinars per dollar, one tick lower than yesterday," according to the central bank's daily bulletin which was received by Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI).
The 16 banks that participated in the auction offered to sell $2.550 million, which the bank bought at an exchange rate of 1,198 dinars per dollar.
In an exclusive statement to VOI, Ali al-Yasseri, a trader, said that cash demands rose as expected on Thursday, on which traders pay their bills. However, the drop in the exchange rate was a surprise that urged traders to increase their foreign remittances, driving up the overall demand for the dollar to three times that of yesterday.
The Iraqi Central Bank runs a daily auction from Sunday to Thursday.Last Updated ( Friday, 09 May 2008 )
Private Banks appealed to the Iraqi government to make the Iraqi Central Bank open the value of their financial allocations and not limit it to a certain amount just like it is in other countries of the world in order to allow them to move according to the modern market economics to serve the economic transformation plans adopted by the government since 2003.
They asked the Iraqi Central Bank not to determine the ceiling material to their financial allocations, since it represents a hindrance to the expansion of their infrastructure and thus freezing business dealings, whether inside or outside.
Deputy Director of Al-Warkaa Bank for Investment and F,inance, Mohamed Hassan, said that private banks need the support of the government represented by the Iraqi Central Bank through opening credits without adherence to a certain ceiling to revitalize the national economy, taking into consideration the efficiency of the bank, the services provided by the bank, the development processes of its restructuring, raising its capital based on the achievements made by the bank like introducing the software system in banking dealings to facilitate services to customers for the first time in Iraq as well as puting up a new interest rate on deposits of three types: 12% for three months, 13% for six months and 14% for one year. He added that the bank granted its customers the smart card service, the ATM, the issuance of guarantees and opening low credits through the Internet service bank "electronic-bank" and by using a password containing the account number and name.Last Updated ( Thursday, 01 January 1970 )
Demand for the dollar was sharply down in the Iraqi Central Bank's auction on Sunday, registering at $ 35.440 million compared to $164.635 million on Thursday.
"The demand hit $10.850 million in cash and $24.550 million in money transfers outside the country, all covered by the bank at an exchange rate of 1,200 Iraqi dinars per dollar, unchanged for the second session in a row,” according to the central bank's daily bulletin which was received by Aswat al-Iraq- Voices of Iraq- (VOI).
The 13 banks that participated in the auction offered to sell 950,000 dollars, which the bank bought all at a rate of 1,198 dinars per dollar.
Speaking to VOI, Ali al-Yasseri, a trader, attributed the lower demand for the dollar to the small number of the banks that participated in today’s session and to the small size of the remittances.
Al-Yasseri expected a hike in the demand for the dollar at tomorrow’s auction with the possibility that the Central Bank will lower the dollar exchange rate against the dinar at a rate of one tick.
The Iraqi Central Bank runs a daily auction from Sunday to Thursday.Last Updated ( Monday, 12 May 2008 )
Began requiring visas for Iraqis. Until then it was the only country to allow Iraqis in without visas. The new restrictions have led some Iraqis to return to Baghdad, but that number is well below 50,000.
A recent UNHCR survey of families returning found that less than 18 percent did so by choice. Most came back because they lacked a visa, had run out of money abroad, or were deported.
Sectarian killings have decreased in recent months, but still continue. Bodies continue to be dumped on the streets of Baghdad daily.
One reason for a decrease in the level of violence is that most of Baghdad has essentially been divided along sectarian lines. Entire neighbourhoods are now surrounded by concrete blast walls several metres high, with strict security checkpoints. Normal life has all but vanished.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
By Hind al-Safar and Zaineb Naji in Baghdad (ICR No. 261, 10-Jun-08)
Firdaw al-Baghdadi has not seen her husband in three years. He was abducted in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, and although his family paid a ransom for his release, they never heard from the captors again.
Baghdadi, 38, from Baghdad’s Shia suburb Sadr City, cannot find work and her own relatives are too poor to help out, so she lives with her husband's family in cramped conditions.
“I don't know what to do,” she said. “Tradition prevents women from working, especially women like me.”
Women whose husbands go missing in Iraq receive little financial support and get lost in a welfare system that does not assist the families of kidnap victims, critics said.
While no reliable figures are available, abductions became a widespread – and lucrative – business from late 2003, with families paying tens of thousands of dollars for the release of their loved ones.
According to reports by the Washington-based Brookings Institution, the incidence of kidnapping reached 30 to 40 a day as civil conflict broke out in March 2006.
In many cases, kidnap victims have never been released even when the families have paid a ransom.
Wives of the victims are emotionally and financially devastated by the loss, say women's advocates, and their suffering is heightened because often they cannot access benefits intended for Iraq's most vulnerable.
While welfare is available for widows, orphans, the disabled and divorced women, it does not cover women whose husbands have gone missing, unless they can prove in court their husbands were kidnapped or killed, according to Azhar al-Sharbaf, a legal adviser with the women's affairs ministry.
This requirement is intended to prevent fraudulent claims in a country wracked by corruption. However, kidnappings can be difficult to prove.
Layla Kadhim Aziz, director of the Social Care Network, a welfare system through the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, said families affected by kidnapping must also fill out forms proving that they need aid.
Welfare benefits in Iraq stand at 75,000 dinar (65 US dollars) a month for individuals or 100,000 dinar (85 dollars) for families with children, Sharbaf said, noting that this allowance “doesn't even cover a household's basic needs”.
The wives of government employees are entitled to up to one year of their husbands' salary if their partners go missing and there is no one else who can support them, said Shatha al-Abusi, a member of parliament who advocates for women's rights.
However, many women do not take advantage of the benefits on offer, as they do not report an abduction to police, for fear of retaliation by the kidnappers. In addition, many Iraqis lost confidence in the police after 2004, when the force was infiltrated by militias. Moreover, as kidnappings are so common, the police spend little time investigating them.
Abusi said that some women whose husbands are abducted become so fearful that they abandon their homes and go and stay with relatives. “Sometimes the woman leaves her house immediately after her husband is abducted because she's afraid of being targeted,” she explained.
Khetam Abdul Karim, a 30-year-old women's advocate and a lawyer specialising in family matters, said Iraqi laws do not provide adequate support for families in kidnapping cases. The only law that deals with the missing dates from 1980, the start of the Iran-Iraq war, she said. That law states that the defence or interior minister must first declare an individual missing and after a four-year lapse, the person is declared dead and family members are then entitled to claim the inheritance.
Sharbaf said the women's affairs ministry had backed a law that would have provided financial support, health care and other aid for women who have no other means of support. The law, which was drafted by parliament's human rights committee, was shelved in May.
The ministries of finance, justice and labour and social affairs all rejected the legislation on the grounds that the government had not allocated funding for the programme and it would overlap with the social care network, said Sharbaf.
Abusi, who is on the parliamentary human rights committee, said it would continue to push for a law that aids the wives of kidnap victims. Aziz also said she would encourage the government to review the benefits system.
Weam Jasim, an activist with the rights group Dawn of the Woman in Baghdad, said that while her organisation has tried to draw attention to the plight of wives of kidnap victims, this has largely been ignored by the authorities. Jasim is not hopeful that the government will act on behalf of women.
“Women's rights are only slogans for politicians,” she said.
Hind al-Safar and Zaineb Naji are IWPR-trained journalists in Baghdad.
I was a 25 year old single dad from a small town swimming in the Wall Street shark tank. I was brought up to take people at face value, and I trusted some of the wrong people.
Hollywood, CA (PRWEB) May 12, 2008 -- A former CEO-turned-screenwriter gives away millions of Iraqi Dinar to show how fortunes printed on paper can become worthless overnight.
The number of Iraqi Dinar given away by screenwriter Nicholas Chavez would have been worth approximately $4,825,350 in a 1989 "pre-Gulf War" Iraq.
Nicholas Chavez was once a highly celebrated technology executive of a publicly traded technology company with a market cap that once exceeded $90M, until everything came crashing down.
"Seemingly overnight, my fortune that exceeded $40M became worthless" states Nicholas Chavez, a Denver-based entertainment entrepreneur. "I was a 25 year old single dad from a small town swimming in the Wall Street shark tank. I was brought up to take people at face value, and I trusted some of the wrong people."
Monday May 12th marked the delivery of some 55 Express Mail envelopes to Hollywood studio and mini-major moguls, each stuffed with 25,000 Iraqi Dinar and a letter to the receiving executives that included the following text:
"My fortune all but evaporated in 3 months. $40,000,000 gone! A beautiful Rossa Corsa colored Ferrari, a British Racing Green Aston Martin, two Range Rovers as black as night, gated mansions with flowering gardens, stunning women & fair-weather friends. All of it slowly eroded and then, disappeared completely along with my fortune of eight-figures!"
The letter goes on to indicate that Chavez has chronicled the events of his sudden upward mobility, and his dramatic fall in a spec-script that is available for purchase to the highest bidder in an auction that will be conducted via phone with his attorney, Wednesday May 14th.
Lawrence Gordon, Producer of such hits as "Boogie Nights," Field of Dreams," and "Predator" described the advantages of spec scripts in a New York Times interview. "You can eyeball the script to get an idea of what the budget will be. You don't have to wonder if the script is going to work and how much the movie will cost." To date, Mr. Gordon has made multiple spec-script purchases paying seven-figures per script in many cases.
Chavez is confident that the script is a winner and will bring in a seven-figure winning bid.
"There are dozens of instances that I have read, where screenwriters in their 20's sell scripts for one to five million dollars. Often, these scripts come from unknown writers, and are not based on a true, captivating story of money, sex and deceit." said Chavez.
Andrew Contiguglia, Chavez's entertainment attorney, will be conducting the auction.
"If you think about it, the information in this screenplay cost me $40M to produce, so whoever in Hollywood is smart enough to buy it- will be getting a $38M discount."
About Nicholas Chavez:
Nicholas Chavez is a 28 year old entertainment entrepreneur, who has just wrapped filming on his first feature length film "Passing Buck" which he co-wrote and directed, starring Russell Costen, Rachael Weinstein and Andrew J. Mark. The film is expected to be released in August of 2008, along with a 12 song soundtrack, featuring musicians that have had albums executive produced by Chavez.
Nicholas is also a member of CXO Colorado, The National Management Association, National Association of Record Industry Professionals, The Board of Advisors for the Impact Film Fund, and is Chairman Emeritus of The Colorado Film Coalition: a grassroots organization which aims to boost the film economy of Colorado. In his spare time, he spends time with his two boys and works with Family First- a non-profit which provides abused or neglected children with foster care or adoption.
BAGHDAD: Rising prices of food, energy and other commodities worldwide pushed up Iraq's inflation rate to 16 percent in April, compared to 11 percent at the beginning of this year, the country's central bank said Sunday.
Central Bank of Iraq governor Sinan al-Shibibi said the bank would continue its monetary policy focused on absorbing the inflation by strengthening the Iraqi dinar against the U.S. dollar and keeping interest rates at 17 percent.
"The interest rate is high, I admit that, and that could lead to the private banks sending their money to the central bank rather than other fields," al-Shibibi told a press conference in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. "But it serves the economy by reducing inflation."
In its monthly report, the Iraqi Planning Ministry said April saw increases in prices for the most important goods and services, which make up more than two-thirds of a family's expenditures.
Food prices rose the most, with a 13.6 percent increase, and medical services and drugs went up 1.3 percent. The price of furniture in Iraq rose 0.8 percent and other essential goods and services inched up 0.6 percent.
The cost of fuel fell by 4.9 percent, and transport and communications prices sunk by 2.5 percent, the report said.
"This increase in the general level of prices in April has been caused by the outside (economic) shock Iraqi economy is still facing due to soaring prices," al-Shibibi said.
Inflation, which spiked at 69.6 percent at end of 2006, was sharply reduced to 32 percent at the start of 2007 and then to 11 percent at the beginning of this year, thanks to a policy package that included exchange rate appreciation and higher interest rates.
But the security situation in some areas and corruption are still the main obstacles for a public investment program, despite billions of dollars that soaring world oil prices bring to Iraqi government coffers.
Iraq, which sits on the world's third-largest oil reserves with more than 115 billion barrels, exported 57.06 million barrels in April and grossed US$5.9 billion.