By Aymen Al-Faisal, for the Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Implications of the Coronavirus on the Overall Situation in Iraq

With the spread of the coronavirus globally, many countries around the world face several challenges in the absence of any looming solutions so far.

Economies are the most affected by this virus that led to restrict the movement and the freedom of travel between countries, limit the transport of goods by sea and land, and raise spending on precautionary measures to limit the virus spread.

Since the discovery of the virus in January, the stock market has not declined only in China, but it has impacted the Asian and the American markets as well.

Click here to read the full article.

By Sajad Jiyad for War on the Rocks. Sajad Jiyad is the managing director of Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies, an independent think tank based in Baghdad. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

As the fallout continues from the airstrikes that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani of Iran and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis in Baghdad on Jan. 3, relations between Iraq and the United States are at a pivotal point.

Considerable anger over the attacks led to political pressure for the Iraqi government to force out foreign troops, ostensibly in Iraq to provide training, advice and support for the campaign against ISIL.

Click here to read the full story.

By Ali Al-Mawlawi.

Public Payroll Expansion in Iraq: Causes and Consequences

The public payroll in Iraq has grown unchecked since 2003, commensurate with the country’s vastly expanding oil wealth.

With few alternative sources of government income, the state budget’s growth poses worrying questions about whether this ongoing trend can be sustained without risking economic ruin.

Click here to read the full report from the London School of Economics.

The report will be launched at the LSE’s Middle East Centre on Tuesday 3rd December, 6:00pm to 7:30pm, with speakers Ali Al-Mawlawi, Alia Moubayed and Toby Dodge.

The Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies has just published a new report from our Expert Blogger Ahmed Tabaqchali:

The current debate over the interpretation of the 2019 budget that governs the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) share of the federal budget in return for contributing 250,000 bbl/d to federal oil exports has echoes of the first conflict in April 2012 on the issue.

The adept quote above by the International Crisis Group (ICC), in its description of the relationship between the two sides leading to that conflict, is as applicable today as it was then, and over the many repeats of similar conflicts in the intervening years.

The current flare up is initiated by members of the federal parliament against the Government of Iraq (GoI) over its continuing payments to the KRG, under the terms of the 2019 budget, while the KRG has not or refused to honour its obligations under the terms of the same budget.

The internal and external dynamics of the players on both sides, the federal politicians and the regional Kurdish politicians, follow the same trajectory that led to countless struggles over this issue and others since 2003. Each side is not only blind and deaf to the other side’s needs and motives but views it with suspicion and mistrust.

Unless something breaks the mould, either an intervention by Iraq’s international stakeholders or a change in the balance of relative power between the two, both will continue to think and act in the same manner that each had acted in the past, while still expecting a different outcome for the conflict or a different response form the other side.

Read Ahmed Tabaqchali’s full report here.

By John Lee.

A new report by Ali Al-Mawlawi (pictured) argues that the targets of Iraq’s National Development Plan (NDP) are far too optimistic.

In a paper for the Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies, entitled “Iraq’s National Development Strategies: Exploring Weaknesses in Policy Planning and Investment“, he says greater coordination is required between the Ministry of Planning and other government agencies to ensure consistency and alignment with priorities, objectives and targets.

The aim of the paper is to explain how a more focused and measured approach to institutional reform will yield far better results than one that seeks to do too much.

Click here to read the full report.

The Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies has proposed the creation of sovereign wealth fund in Iraq.

Once used by only a few countries around the world, Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) are becoming an increasingly common feature of international finance and state-led economic development.

An increasing number of countries, predominantly developing countries, who rely on the export of commodities such as hydrocarbons and minerals are creating SWF portfolios .

The exact motivation behind creating an SWF varies between countries. Some SWFs aim to provide funds for an aging or growing population while others invest the funds in development and investment programmes to help diversify revenue generation mechanisms.

Others are explicitly designed to cushion a country’s economy from price shocks ,currency volatility and general international economic instability.

Please click here to download the full report.

The Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies has just published a new report by Ali Al-Mawlawi on reform of public financial management in Iraq:

Designing a Successful Approach to Public Financial Management Reform in Iraq

The path to recovery and reconstruction in post-conflict Iraq is fraught with pitfalls.

The new government will need to tread carefully if it is to maintain macroeconomic stability and fiscal discipline, while trying to address the urgent needs of citizens through improved service delivery, job creation and protecting security gains.

As a result, there is little doubt that the government will be forced to expand public spending on essential services, re-open the public sector job market to absorb rising unemployment, and continue to invest in the security sector to ensure that the Iraqi Security Forces are adequately trained and equipped to counter the resurgent threat of terrorism.

Indeed, these necessities will likely be reflected in the 2019 federal budget. The initial draft of the budget that was submitted to cabinet reveals a 23% rise in total spending compared to 2018, while total government revenues are projected to increase by 16% at approximately $90 billion.

The number of budgeted public sector employees will also expand by 46,000 people. Given the higher than expected rise in oil prices, it seems that austerity measures will be relaxed to some extent.

Iraq will likely end this year on a budget surplus. The country is now generating nearly $8 billion in oil revenues each month, compared to just over $2 billion in January 2016. According to Ministry of Finance data, a budget surplus of $12.6 billion was achieved by the end of July 2018 and if current trends continue, the surplus could exceed $24 billion by the end of the year

Please click here to download the full report.

(Source: Al-Bayan Center)

A new report by Ali Al-Mawlawi (pictured) argues that the illusive nature of long-term stability in the Middle East necessitates a strong commitment by Iraq’s political leaders to develop a sustainable economic and fiscal regime that can absorb future shocks to the system.

According to the World Bank, government expenditure as a percentage of GDP averaged at 52 percent between 2005 and 2012, making it amongst the highest in the region.

Modernising Iraq’s bureaucracy through a public financial management (PFM) approach will be critical, the report says.

Click here to read the full report.

By John Lee.

The Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies has just published a new report from our Expert Blogger Ahmed Tabaqchali.

Entitled “Understanding Iraq’s debt: An overview of its status, outlook and origins“, the report argues that much of that debate about Iraq’s debt is out of context, mixes loosely related facts and figures and mostly comes without an understanding of the concept of debt or debt servicing costs or debt sustainability.

The paper’s aim is to provide an understanding of Iraq’s debt, its origins, developments, status and implications for the future in dealing with the challenge of reconstruction.

Read Ahmed Tabaqchali’s full report here in English, and here in Arabic.

By John Lee.

In a new report published for the Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies, Dr Michael Knights, Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argues that those who say that there is no longer any such thing as the Iraqi security forces (ISF) are fully aware the line they are peddling is nonsense.

They are motivated by schadenfreude – a foolish desire to mock Iraq in its moment of suffering,” he says.

“Iraq stands at a crossroads. The choice is very simple. Put the right people in charge of security and give them the right authorities and resources and allies. Or witness the further deterioration of Iraq’s stability and unity.”

The full report — The Future of Iraq’s Armed Forces — can be downloaded here.