What Is the Iraqi Central Bank?

The term Iraqi Central Bank refers to the national central bank of Iraq. Established as Iraq's independent central bank by law in 2004, the bank manages domestic monetary policy and supervises the country's financial system. Commonly referred to as the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), it is headquartered in Baghdad and has four branches in Basrah, Mosul, Sulaimaniyah, and Erbil.

Key Takeaways

  • The Central Bank of Iraq is charged with carrying out monetary policy and supervising the country’s banking system.
  • The CBI was established in 2004 after the U.S. invaded the country.
  • The bank maintains its currency pegged to the U.S. dollar. 
  • The CBI has faced special challenges over the years, including the looting of banks by ISIS and fluctuations in the price of oil.

How the Iraqi Central Bank Works

The Central Bank of Iraq was created on March 6, 2004, as the country's independent central bank. Its formation was necessitated by the events that led up to and the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq as well as the fall of former leader Saddam Hussein. The bank was established with 100 billion dinars in capital provided by the state in exchange for 100% of the bank's capital stock. The federal government is the sole owner of this stock, which was not transferable. Mustafa Ghaleb was appointed governor of the central bank by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in September 2020, according to a report from Reuters.

The CBI's main objectives are to ensure domestic price stability and to develop a stable and competitive market-based financial system—a system that consists of banks, financial companies, stock exchanges, and insurance companies. In fulfilling these objectives, the CBI aims to support sustainable growth and employment in the country.

The CBI undertakes the following main functions in order to meet these objectives:

  • Implementing Iraq's monetary policy and exchange rate policy
  • Managing and holding Iraq's gold and foreign exchange reserves
  • Issuing and managing the national currency of Iraq, the Iraqi dinar (IQD)
  • Overseeing the payment system along with regulating and supervising the banking sector

The CBI manages exchange rate policy for the Iraqi dinar, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) describes the peg as a key anchor for the economy—it is partly the USD peg that resulted in sustained low and stable inflation in Iraq, around 2% average for several years.

If you're interested in investing in Iraq, talk to your financial advisor or broker about bonds, mutual funds, or exchange-traded funds.

Special Considerations

The CBI faces a number of challenges, including the management of its monetary policy. One of the main issues of concern stems from ISIS insurgency in parts of the country. The group is believed to be responsible for a number of severe financial disruptions. According to a Newsweek report, CBI said ISIS looted approximately $800 million from the nation's banks between 2014 and 2017, most of which was denominated in Iraqi dinars. This includes reserves from the Trade Bank of Mosul—the main institution Baghdad uses for trade and financing.

Another key issue for the central bank stems from volatility and fluctuations in oil prices. Oil exports are a primary source of foreign currency for Iraq and, therefore, important to the nation's economy. According to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Iraq's crude oil exports amounted to almost 4 million barrels in 2019. The decline in oil prices—was a driving force behind the fall in Iraq's foreign reserves—from $54 billion at the end fo 2015 to $45 billion at the close of 2016.

Global oil prices collapsed in early 2020, amid the global slowdown in economic activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting economic and social conditions in the war-torn country under extreme pressure. Total Iraqi oil revenue fell by almost half from $5.05 billion in February 2020 to $2.99 billion in March.

Iraq's lack of measures to prevent money-laundering and counter-terrorist financing along with its failure to strengthen anti-corruption legislation also factor into the CBI's challenges. Because of the country's lack of action to move forward on these issues, it was removed from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which was created in 1989 as a way for member nations to work together to combat these global problems. Consultations between Iraq and the IMF covered issues like the framework for its fiscal policy as well as the need for laws surrounding anti-corruption and cooperations between different government agencies. As such, Iraq was not brought back into the FATF but remains the subject of monitoring.