Failed Banking System Prompts Iraqis to Hoard Gold

By Abdel Hamid Zebari for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

There is an old Arabic saying that “gold is both for decoration and storing.” Currently, Iraqis, particularly residents of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, are taking these words to heart. In the absence of a trustworthy banking system, they are converting their money into gold and stashing it in their homes. The Department of Standards and Quality Control for Gold and Minerals in the Kurdistan Region acknowledges that, indeed, large quantities of gold are being imported and distributed.

Bakr Aziz, the director of quality control for gold in the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Planning, revealed to Al-Monitor, “During the past six months, 49.4 [metric] tons of gold have been imported into Iraq through the Erbil and Sulaimaniyah airports.” By comparison, according to Aziz, during the first seven months of 2012, some 34 tons of gold were imported.

He further explained, “Amounts of gold are brought in according to the needs of the Iraqi market. These quantities are brought in through the Erbil and Sulaimaniyah airports and distributed to all of Iraq.” These two airports have surplanted Baghdad’s airport as shipment points for gold due to the deteriorating security situation in central and southern Iraq and the lack of security in the airports there. By contrast, there is a “high level of organization in the Kurdistan Region’s airports.” Aziz reiterated, “[These airports] are secure, making it easier to bring gold into Iraq via the Kurdistan Region.”

The director also pointed out, “Currently, there is strong demand for Turkish and Gulf gold [from Dubai], especially 21-karat gold, while there is not much demand for local gold.” Some of Iraq’s imported gold originates in Europe, but this portion constitutes only a small amount of overall imports.

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