Thu Apr 12, 2012 3:10pm EDT
* Cabinet says stops plans to redenominate dinar “until further notice”
* Iraq has over 30 trillion Iraqi dinars in circulation
* Plan to trim zeros not seen as a priority
By Aseel Kami – Reuters
BAGHDAD, April 12 (Reuters) – Iraq has decided to hold off on a plan to knock three zeros off the nominal value of bank notes of its currency because it does not believe the economic climate is suitable, the cabinet secretary said on Thursday.
The central bank said last August it planned to redenominate the Iraqi dinar to simplify financial transactions in an economy that is still heavily centralised and dominated by oil, and where deals are often carried out in cash.
The proposal to restructure the dinar to bring more liquidity into the market has been awaiting parliamentary approval since last year.
On Thursday, a statement on the website of the cabinet secretary said the cabinet had decided to halt all procedures relating to the redenomination of the dinar “until further notice”.
“The economic committee discussed this issue and so did cabinet … There is a possibility that it could cause some problems in the economic situation. Besides that, this operation is so big that cabinet sees circumstances are not right to control this,” cabinet secretary Ali al-Alaq told Reuters.
Iraq is slowly getting back on its feet after years of war and sanctions. Oil accounts for 95 percent of government revenues and the country’s banking system is still highly underdeveloped.
The central bank has kept the dinar fixed at 1,170 dinars to the dollar in its daily auction but it recently moved to revalue the dinar slightly to 1,166 dinars after demand for the U.S. currency soared.
The central bank said it also had to tighten regulations over who can participate in the auctions as Iraqi traders sought to snap up dollars for resale in neighbouring Syria and Iran, both under Western economic sanctions.
Sales of dollars in currency auctions held by Iraq’s central bank rose as high as $400 million on some days in December from a previous average of $150 million, according to central bank data.
“We have more than 30 trillion dinars in circulation. To withdraw this amount from the market and then to examine them and to dispose of them is a huge process. Even the technical and the monetary capabilities to control a process like this, we consider as insufficient and it is not seen as a priority currently,” Alaq said.
The central bank says Iraq’s large foreign reserves, which have risen to a record $60 billion on the back of high oil prices, will shield it from any damage to its financial system on the national level.