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Will Sudani Adopt the Previous Iraqi Government’s Economic Policies?

Will Sudani Adopt the Previous Iraqi Government’s Economic Policies?

Wednesday, 2 November, 2022 - 11:00
A handout picture released by Iraq's prime minister's office shows the new Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani arriving for the official handover ceremony at the Republican Palace, the government's seat, in Baghdad's green zone. (Iraq's prime minister's office/ AFP)

These days, we are seeing increasing speculation, especially among Iraqi elites and economists, about the extent to which the country’s new prime minister, Mohamed Shia al-Sudani, can reverse some of the critical economic decisions that the Coordination Framework had criticized Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government of taking. Topping the list are the decision to devaluate the Iraqi dinar and a couple of other economic policies.

Dr. Nabil Al-Marsoumi, an academic and economist, said the program put forward by Sudani’s government did not mention reversing the decision to devaluate the currency by over a fifth - with 1,480 rather than 1,180 dinars becoming the equivalent of one US dollar.

The failure to reverse the decision of the former government demonstrates that its critics, most of whom are part of the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, had exploited the devaluation and its ramifications for the Iraqi people’s purchasing power as a pretext to undermine Kadhimi’s government.

“There was no amendment to the exchange rate in the government’s 2023 budget,” Marsoumi stressed. This affirms that Sudani’s government - and with it, the Coordination Framework deputies who dominate parliament - has backtracked on the exchange rate.

Marsoumi added that reversing the decision taken by Khadimi’s government and bringing the US dollar exchange rate back to 2020 levels would increase the government’s budget by 24 billion dollars.

He noted that over 50 MPs recently petitioned the government to reverse the decision. Sudani’s government, however, did not show any enthusiasm for this step, meaning that the decision taken by the former government had been correct despite the sharp criticism that had been levied at it at the time. Indeed, it is a decision several figures and platforms close to the Coordination Framework continue to criticize it.

Moreover, other economists have noted that the new government’s program did not mention the economic agreements that Kadhimi’s government had concluded with Arab countries.

Many within the Coordination Framework had criticized this decision and fiercely opposed it, especially those that are particularly close to Tehran.

Among them is the accord to sell Iraqi oil to Jordan at a discount and the economic agreements concluded with Egypt and Jordan, and the electric grid agreements with the Gulf states and Türkiye - more evidence that “Iraqi political forces usually pursue their private interests.”

While Sudani had called for reducing the salaries of high-ranking Iraqi officials, which he said would save the government 500 billion dinars (about 400 million dollars) a month, this seems unlikely. Indeed, many observers have said that they doubt Sudani will be able to do that since most ministers and senior officials are affiliated with the parties and groups in power. They are not simply going to roll over and surrender their privileges.

Experts believe that instead of a reduction in salaries, we could see Sudani make cuts to the privileges and financial incentives that come with such positions. In fact, they often cost the government multiples of the officials’ salaries. These incentives often take the form of funds allocated to the minister or official’s office, as well as a budget allocated for security.

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