By Padraig O’Hannelly.

For much of Iraq’s recent history, the trend has been for educated and talented Iraqis to leave the country, and for Iraq to use its oil revenues to import the expertise it needs.

But that’s changing; to at least some extent, the Iraqi diaspora is returning, innovative home-grown Iraqi businesses are being created, and some are even exporting their goods and services abroad.

One prime example is Arab Payment Services (APS), which I visited on a recent trip to Baghdad. Founded by Ziad Khalaf in 2013, the company now employs 100 people, many of them Iraqis who have returned from overseas with new skills and experience.

The company provides a range of banking-related services, including ATMs, point-of-sale (POS) devices, and payment processing. In this business, proper security is essential. General Manager Haider Alobaidi, who has been with the company from the start, explained:

“Our processes all comply with international standards, such as PCI DSS [Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard] — our reputation depends on flawless execution, so there is no room for error.”

In a country so reliant on cash, is there really a need for such a business? “Most definitely“, says Roger Abhoud, Advisor to the Chairman:

“The demographics are all in our favour. Forty million people, 83 percent of them without bank accounts, increasing by one million people each year — more and more of those people want access to the sorts of services that we can provide, and that trend can only continue. It’s a huge opportunity!”

His vision doesn’t end there. APS has just opened an office in Dubai, and plans to expand internationally.

This is a new and positive phenomenon for Iraq, and one that will provide welcome opportunities in the years ahead.

By John Lee.

Standard Chartered bank is reportedly reviving stalled plans to open a new branch for corporate customers in Basra in the first half of 2020.

This would be the UK-based bank’s third branch in Iraq.

Its Iraq CEO Mohammed Jawad Al-Delaimy told Bloomberg:

“Security in Iraq has improved dramatically … We have witnessed international companies decreasing their security requirements and risk levels.”

He added that profits in Iraq have been increasing since 2014, and said the bank plans to sign financing deals worth about $500 million for electricity projects by early next year.

More here.

(Source: Bloomberg)

By John Lee.

The state-owned Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) will reportedly open its first operational branch outside Iraq on Thursday.

Chairman and President Faisal Al-Haimus told Arab News that the new branch in Saudi capital Riyadh will also be the only active Iraqi bank in the Kingdom.

(Source: Arab News)

By John Lee.

The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) is organising a Facilitating the Implementation of the IFSB Standards (FIS) Workshop in Baghdad, Iraq on 1 – 3 April 2019.

This Workshop is hosted by the Central Bank of Iraq (CBL).

The 3-day Workshop will focus on the following IFSB Standards:

  • IFSB-15: Revised Capital Adequacy Standard for Institutions Offering Islamic Financial Services (IIFS);
  • GN-3:Guidance Note on the Practice of Smoothing the Profit Payout to Investment Account Holders;
  • GN-4:Guidance Note in Connection with the IFSB Capital Adequacy Standard: The Determination of Alpha in the Capital Adequacy Ratio for IIFS; and
  • GN-6:Guidance Note on Quantitative Measures for Liquidity Risk Management

Overall, the Workshop aims to:

  1. Enhance the participants’ understanding of the respective Standards and Guiding Principles;
  2. Assist the participants in the practical application of issues addressed in the particular standards through case studies, hands-on exercises and other interactive tools; and
  3. Promote the sharing of experiences among the participants on the implementation of respective IFSB Standards and Guiding Principles.

The FIS Workshops are a part of the IFSB’s support to its members based on the Strategic Key Result Area 2 (SKRA 2) on the Facilitating the Implementation of Prudential Standards and Capacity Development under the IFSB’s Strategic Performance Plan (SPP) 2016-2018”, to assist member organisations in adopting and implementing the IFSB Standards.

For enquires on IFSB workshops and membership services, please contact the IFSB Secretariat at ifsb_sec@ifsb.org.

(Source: IFSB)

The Secretary of Iran-Iraq Chamber of Commerce said the obstacles to banking interaction between the two neighbors have been settled and the bilateral trade exchange is fairly normal.

In comments at a televised program on Sunday night, Hamid Hosseini said the problems with banking relations between Iran and Iraq have been resolved and the process of exports to Iraq as well as trade exchange with the Arab country has become stable and much better than before.

Iranian exporters’ concerns about trade with Iraq under a currency agreement have been addressed, the official noted, expressing hope that the process of steady trade exchange with Iraq would continue in the coming Iranian year.

Hosseini pointed to a 32-strong delegation of Iranian private sector’s business people accompanying President Hassan Rouhani in an ongoing trip to Iraq, saying the presidential visit will produce perfect results for the private sector.

A large number of technical and engineering projects worth 7 to 8 billion dollars which Iranian private sector companies were carrying out in Iraq have remained unfinished since the rise of the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group in 2014, the official said, hoping that Rouhani’s trip would help address the issue.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, Rouhani left Iran for Iraq at the official invitation of Baghdad.

It is Rouhani’s first official visit to Iraq during his tenure.

In February, governors of the central banks of Iran and Iraq signed an agreement to develop a payment mechanism aimed at facilitating banking ties between the two neighboring countries.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Iraqi President Barham Salih in Tehran in November, Rouhani said the value of trade and economic interaction between Tehran and Baghdad stands at around $12 billion, adding that the two neighbors have the potential for a $20-billion trade target.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

The governor of the Central Bank of Iran unveiled plans for using non-dollar accounts for oil and gas trade with Iraq.

Abdolnaser Hemmati on Wednesday held a meeting with presidents of Iraqi banks, members of Iraq’s chamber of commerce and the Arab country’s business people during a trip to Baghdad.

In the gathering, the top Iranian banker unveiled a new mechanism to continue Iran’s trade with Iraqi businesses, saying the CBI is going to open euro and dinar-based accounts to process transactions for trade in oil and gas.

Describing Iraq as Iran’s major partner, Hemmati said the two countries have agreed to make the banking ties much stronger.

“According to the agreements, Iranian exporters should be able to continue activities via Iraqi banks, and Iranian banks could also open dinar accounts in Iraqi banks.”

He also stated that Iraqi companies can reciprocally open accounts in Iranian banks and conduct transactions in dinar.

In December 2018, Chairman of Iran-Iraq Chamber of Commerce Yahya Ale-Eshaq said the central banks of Iran and Iraq were finalizing negotiations to begin trade in their own currencies.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim has made it clear that his country cannot cut off trade ties with Iran under the US sanctions, saying the value of annual trade between Iran and Iraq amounts to $12 billion.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

The governor of the Central Bank of Iran unveiled plans for using non-dollar accounts for oil and gas trade with Iraq.

Abdolnaser Hemmati on Wednesday held a meeting with presidents of Iraqi banks, members of Iraq’s chamber of commerce and the Arab country’s business people during a trip to Baghdad.

In the gathering, the top Iranian banker unveiled a new mechanism to continue Iran’s trade with Iraqi businesses, saying the CBI is going to open euro and dinar-based accounts to process transactions for trade in oil and gas.

Describing Iraq as Iran’s major partner, Hemmati said the two countries have agreed to make the banking ties much stronger.

“According to the agreements, Iranian exporters should be able to continue activities via Iraqi banks, and Iranian banks could also open dinar accounts in Iraqi banks.”

He also stated that Iraqi companies can reciprocally open accounts in Iranian banks and conduct transactions in dinar.

In December 2018, Chairman of Iran-Iraq Chamber of Commerce Yahya Ale-Eshaq said the central banks of Iran and Iraq were finalizing negotiations to begin trade in their own currencies.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim has made it clear that his country cannot cut off trade ties with Iran under the US sanctions, saying the value of annual trade between Iran and Iraq amounts to $12 billion.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Abdonnaser Hemmati said Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has voiced “his firm support” for the banking deal reached between the two countries on Tuesday night and called for its rapid implementation.

“After a long and four-hour meeting last night with the governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, I had a very good and constructive meeting with the Prime Minister of Iraq on Wednesday, February 6,” Hemmati said in a post on social media.

“I appreciated his determination to develop political and economic relations between the two countries,” he wrote.

“He declared his firm support for the two sides’ banking agreement and urged the governor of Iraq’s Central Bank to quickly pursue and implement the deal,” Hemmati stated.

In a meeting between Hemmati and his Iraqi counterpart, Ali Mohsen al-Allaq, in Baghdad on Tuesday night, the agreement to develop a payment mechanism aimed at facilitating banking ties was signed.

In addition to natural gas and electricity, Iraq imports a wide range of goods from Iran including food, agricultural products, home appliances, and air conditioners.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Iraqi President Barham Salih in Tehran in November, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the value of trade and economic interaction between Tehran and Baghdad stands at around $12 billion, adding that the two neighbors have the potential for a $20-billion trade target.

Rouhani hoped that cooperation between Tehran and Baghdad would contribute to regional security and stability.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Governors of the central banks of Iran and Iraq signed an agreement to develop a payment mechanism aimed at facilitating banking ties between the two neighboring countries.

The deal on the payment mechanism was signed in a meeting between Iran’s Abdolnaser Hemmati and Iraq’s Ali Mohsen al-Allaq in Baghdad on Tuesday night.

Speaking at the meeting, Hemmati described Iraq as Iran’s biggest trade partner and said banking relationship is the factor needed for the durability of bilateral ties between the two countries.

Hemmati further pointed to the US sanctions against Iran and said by waging an economic war against the Islamic Republic, Washington has made extensive efforts to disturb the economic and political conditions of Iran.

However, he added, with the arrangements made by Iran, fortunately, the enemy plots have been thwarted and the Iranian economy has become stable.

In addition to natural gas and electricity, Iraq imports a wide range of goods from Iran including food, agricultural products, home appliances, and air conditioners.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Iraqi President Barham Salih in Tehran in November, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the value of trade and economic interaction between Tehran and Baghdad stands at around $12 billion, adding that the two neighbors have the potential for a $20-billion trade target.

Rouhani hoped that cooperation between Tehran and Baghdad would contribute to regional security and stability.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

The central banks of Iran and Iraq are finalizing negotiations to begin trade in their own currencies, chairman of Iran-Iraq Chamber of Commerce said.

Speaking to Tasnim, Yahya Ale-Eshaq said negotiations between the central banks of Iran and Iraq are under way to reach an agreement on using rial and dinar in bilateral trade.

Once finalized, the agreement would allow the banks of the two countries to issue letters of credit on the basis of Iranian rial and Iraqi dinar, he added.

Ale-Eshaq also noted that the value of Iran’s exports to Iraq in the first eight months of the current Iranian year (March 21- November 21) reached $8 billion, equal to the total amount of exports to Iraq in the previous year.

On Saturday, secretary general of Iran-Iraq joint chamber of commerce, Hamid Hosseini, said the daily value of Iran’s exports to Iraq stands at $45 million and sometimes reaches $70 million.

Iraq’s new Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim has made it clear that his country cannot cut off trade ties with Iran under the US sanctions, saying the value of annual trade between Iran and Iraq amounts to $12 billion.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)