Thursday, August 28, 2008

Iraq central bank takes steps to ‘rebase dinar’

Published: Sunday, 24 August, 2008, 08:22 AM Doha Time

BAGHDAD: The Central Bank of Iraq has taken steps to rebase the Iraqi dinar and issue new banknotes, a senior official at the bank has said.

“We have reached a conclusion that we should take off three zeroes from the current Iraqi dinar banknotes,” Mudher Qasim, the bank’s senior advisor, told Dow Jones Newswires in an exclusive interview.
“The process is progressing and we have taken some steps,” Qasim said. “We will issue a decision in due time.”
Qasim didn’t give a timeframe when that decision would be taken, but said printing new banknotes and fully replacing old notes would take two years from the time the decision is taken.
Iraqi Finance Minister Bayan Jabor said his ministry had suggested to the central bank to take off three zeroes from the current Iraqi dinar banknotes. “The Central Bank governor (Sinan Al-Shabibi) has informed me that the bank is in the process of taking that decision,” Jabor told the state-run Al-Iraqia Satellite Channel this week.

“The Central Bank of Iraq supports what the finance minister was saying,” Qasim said.
If the rebase decision is taken, it means a current 25,000 Iraqi dinar banknote will become 25 dinars, for example. When three zeroes are knocked off the Iraqi dinar, a dollar will equal only 1.20 dinars.
Currency rebasings are usually monetarily neutral and are introduced to make commercial calculations and cash dealing easier and cheaper. Turkey knocked six zeroes off its lira currency January 1, 2005, for example. Russia did the same for its currency.

“In a country like Iraq where cash consists 80% of money dealing, we need smaller bank notes,” Qasim said, adding that current Iraqi banknotes were difficult to store and need strict security measures when moving money from one place to another.

There are now some 20tn Iraqi dinar banknotes in use in the market, which is a very big amount and if Iraq knocked 3 zeroes it would become 20bn dinars which is a reasonable amount, he said.
Qasim also said one of the reasons for rebasing the Iraqi dinar is because the bank has managed to reduce the country’s high rates of inflation. The inflation rate fell to 14.7% in May this year from a record high of 60% in late 2006.

In July 2004, the now dissolved US civilian authority in Iraq decided to print the current Iraqi banknotes replacing those used to bear the picture of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Iraqis then had three months to swap their old dinars with the new ones.
“This time we aren’t in hurry, if it takes two years to swap the new currency with the old one, then let it so,” Qasim said.

The current banknotes were printed by Britain’s De La Rue, the world’s biggest commercial printer of bank notes.

Jabor said in November last year that the central bank would rebase the dinar in early 2008. – Dow Jones Newswires

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