MPs Push for Removal of Zeros on Iraqi Banknotes

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region- Kurdish members of Iraqi Parliament’s Finance Committee have denied that there is currently any proposed law regarding the removal of zeros on the Iraqi banknote.

Ahmad Faizulla, an MP from the Kurdistan alliance in Iraqi parliament and member of the finance committee, dismissed claims that their committee has prepared and drafted a law to alter the currency.

“The finance committee cannot make such a decision,” he said. “We can only suggest projects. The drafted projects will be presented to parliament for discussions for voting. This is something that must go through legal channels.”

Heitham Jiburry, a member of the finance committee, announced last week that eliminating zeros on Iraqi banknotes will be implemented early next year. “It is expected that the process of printing new currency will start next August,” he said.

Jiburry also remarked, “The process of replacing the old currency to the new one will continue throughout next year. The old currency will completely be gone in the first 6 months of 2014.”

In April, the chief of staff of Iraqi Council of Ministries suspended the process indefinitely.

Fazil Nabi, Iraq’s deputy finance minister, previously told Rudaw that eliminating zeros on Iraq’s currency will not increase the value of Iraqi dinars.

However, Jiburry said, the process will make the Iraqi dinar more stable and reduce demands for foreign currency among people.

Nabi told Rudaw, “Implementing this process is related to the central bank. I always believed that this wouldn’t work at least at this stage.”

Economists believe Iraq is not ready to eliminate zeros on its currency, and that for the process to be successful security, political and economic stability is needed.

But Shorsh Haji, an Iraqi MP from the Change Movement (Gorran) maintained that there is indeed a proposal to modify the currency.

“Such an idea to eliminate zeros on Iraqi currency does exist,” Haji said. “The process of withdrawing all the old bills and replacing them with new ones needs a special budget, which was not designated from the 2012 budget. It is believed that this budget will be designated in 2013.”

Regarding possible economic benefits of a currency change, Haji said, “The benefit would be more in appearance. Currently, the value of the Iraqi dinar has dropped and is unstable. After removing zeros instead of saying 123,000 IQD is equal to US$100 we will say 123 Dinars is equal to US$100. It is just to show that Iraq has a strong economy.”

Making changes in Iraq’s banknotes may add to already heightened tensions between Baghdad and Erbil. Kurdish MPs in Baghdad say that if such a law is passed in parliament, the new bills must have Kurdish alongside Arabic script on them, as stipulated by the constitution.

“So far, there has not been any designs for the new bills,” Haji noted. “Without a doubt, having Kurdish written on the new bills will be our pre-condition.”

According to Article 4 of the Constitution, Kurdish and Arabic are the official languages of Iraq and both languages must appear on Iraqi banknotes.

Section two of the article says, “Use of both languages is enjoined by the principle of equality such as banknotes, passports, and stamps.”

Haji is optimistic about the future use of the Kurdish language on Iraqi official documents.

“I don’t expect that this constitutional right will be ignored or cause more tensions between Baghdad and Erbil,” he said. “This is a legal and constitutional subject. There are also Kurdish-Arabic interpreters in Parliament. Kurdish MPs can speak Kurdish if they want. However, it has become a habit for them to speak Arabic in the Parliament.”

MP Faizulla is more skeptical, saying, “Many constitutional articles and rights have already been violated. This will depend on agreements between the political parties. If the political parties don’t agree, it most likely won’t happen.”