by RUDAW 4 hours ago

According to Iraq’s energy plan, oil exports are expected to reach six million barrels per day (bpd) by 2017. AFP photo

By Goran Mustafa

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The lifting of Chapter 7 sanctions last month can be considered one of Iraq’s biggest achievements since the ouster of Saddam Hussein a decade ago, allowing Baghdad to regain control over its own currency, oil and economy.

Chapter 7, imposed on Iraq by the UN Security Council after Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991, froze all Iraqi assets in international banks, ordering they be used to compensate victims of the aggression. Besides placing limits on use of its wealth, the sanctions also placed limits on the Iraqi military.

One of the biggest advantages of the lifting of the sanctions is the return of all frozen assets to the Iraqi government, estimated at $82 billion, according to Central Bank data. Its return will not only revitalize the economy, it will strengthen the value of the Iraqi dinar and increase its purchasing power.

A few hours after Chapter 7 was lifted, the value of Iraqi dinar increased against other currencies. The exchange rate of dinar is fixed against the dollar, but its value continues to rise. Saif Al-Halafi, an economic and banking expert, expects that the dinar will probably replace the dollar for investments, and that as demand for the dinar rises, so will its value.

With Chapter 7 lifted, Iraq also can independently handle its oil revenues without UN supervision.

“The lifting of Chapter 7 against Iraq will enable it to regain independence in its oil policy, and Iraq again can become an important regional and international energy player,” said economic expert, Dr. Rebwar Khinsi. Iraq plans to emerge as one of the world’s biggest oil exporters in 12 years.

According to Iraq’s energy plan, oil exports are expected to reach six million barrels per day (bpd) by 2017, elevating the federal budget to $216 billion dollars. The plan aims for exports of nine million barrels bpd by 2020, raising the budget to $324 billion dollars. In 2025, the federal budget will reach 432 million dollars, if Iraq succeeds to export 12 million barrels of oil per day.

Under George Bush’s administration the US government agreed to keep $50 billion belonging to Iraq in America, and Barack Obama’s administration continues to do the same. An estimated $7.8 billion dollars are blocked in Jordan and Lebanon, and a huge amount of capital belonging to Iraqi Airways remains frozen in Kuwait and Jordan.

The United Nations Security Council forced Iraq to compensate Kuwait for an estimated $52 billion. Following the first Gulf War, Iraq did not have an independent economic policy, with all of its income administered by Iraq’s development program and supervised by the UN. Five percent of Iraq’s annual oil revenue was allocated to compensating Kuwait.

So far, Iraq has paid $41 billion dollars to Kuwait. According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoosyar Zebari, Baghdad is committed to paying the rest of the remaining $11 billion in compensation to Kuwait, and expects to pay off all of its debts by 2015.