New central bank governor, senior economy officials named in Iraq

The appointments apparently come to consolidate the government’s authority as the Iraqi premier attempts to tackle the acute financial crisis.
Tuesday 15/09/2020
A file picture shows Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Allawi in the capital Baghdad, last June. (AFP)
A file picture shows Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Allawi in the capital Baghdad, last June. (AFP)

BAGHDAD--Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi appointed Mustafa Ghaleb as central bank governor, state news agency INA said on Monday.

Kadhimi also appointed Suha Dawood Elias as head of the National Investment Commission and Salem Jawad Abdul Hadi Al-Jalabi as chairman of state-owned Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI), among other appointments, INA said.

INA did not provide further details.

The appointments apparently come to consolidate the government’s authority as the Iraqi premier attempts to tackle an acute financial crisis, further exacerbated by the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic and the decline in oil prices.

Iraq’s economy and oil sector were battered by years of wars, sanctions and a stubborn Islamist insurgency triggered by the US invasion.

Iraq relies on oil to fund 97% of its state budget. Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Allawi told parliament last week that reforming Iraq’s economy would take five years of work and that state debt amounted to 80-90% of national product, while foreign debt was at $133 billion.

Earlier this month, Kadhimi’s government indicated that higher ups in the country could indeed feel the brunt of the law, as Iraq’s Central Bank froze the assets and seized the property of nine officials, including the son-in-law of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki over failing to pay debts owed to the state.

The Central Bank’s decision stated: “The seizure of movable and immovable assets for each of Yasser Sakheil (Al-Maliki’s son-in-law), his brother Luqman Sakheil (former governor of Karbala) Aqeel Al-Taraihi (close to Al-Maliki), MP Zuhair Al-Araji and Hajem Al-Hasani (former head of the Governing Council).”

The list of names also included Ali Al-Quraishi, an official at the foreign ministry, Walid Rida, an official in the prime minister’s office, and Saeed Khedr and Abdullah Muhammad Abdullah, whose positions are unclear.

The targeting of Maliki’s close circle is viewed as a bold move, as the former premier, who headed the Iraqi government for eight years between 2006 and 2014, had long been able to shield himself from accountability by infiltrating various state institutions.

Maliki is accused of widespread corruption and squandering hundreds of billions of dollars of oil money. He is also blamed for weakening the country’s security and military establishments, paving the way for ISIS to tear into Iraq and cause untold disaster and tragedy.

Since assuming office in May, Kadhimi has pledged to refer all those suspected of corruption to the judiciary, regardless of their position within the state. However, Iraqi observers do not believe his campaign will grow into a confrontation with powerful political players at a time when the premiere is seeking to appease tensions with parties and militias close to Iran.