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A fistful of Dinars: demystifying Iraq’s dollar auction

Tabaqchali, Ahmed (2024) A fistful of Dinars: demystifying Iraq’s dollar auction. LSE Middle East Centre Paper Series (85). LSE Middle East Centre, London, UK.

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The Central Bank of Iraq’s (CBI) dollar auction has been a continuous source of controversies and conspiracy theories. The main accusations facing it include: the siphoning of dollars to Iran, money laundering, and currency smuggling. Missing from this melee is an understanding of the economy’s key structural imbalances: mainly that the Iraqi economy is wholly dependent on oil export revenues, and demand for goods and services is met through imports handled by a largely informal private sector. Consequently, the government’s oil revenues are the economy’s major source of dollars, and the private sector depends on the auction as a significant source of dollars to pay for these imports. As such, it is the inherent imbalances in the economy’s structure that led to contradictory and unsustainable compromises within the functioning of the auction, and not unsubstantiated conspiracies. This piece aims to demystify the role and the functioning of the auction. It does so through reviewing (1) the oil and dollar lifecycle within Iraqi economy, (2) the private sector’s dollar supply-demand dynamics, and (3) the causes of the currency’s upheavals in November 2022, and their aftermath. It concludes that the measures undertaken in response to the upheavals have helped resolve most of the compromises that bedevilled the dollar auction in the past. However, lasting change requires addressing the economy’s structural imbalances head-on through implementing fundamental economic reforms centred around redefining the oversized role of the government in the economy and society.

Item Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2024 The Author
Divisions: Middle East Centre
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HG Finance
H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
JEL classification: H - Public Economics > H0 - General > H00 - General
D - Microeconomics > D4 - Market Structure and Pricing > D44 - Auctions
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2024 09:54
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 12:35

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