Iraq to Raise Bank Capital to Address Housing Crisis

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

Iraq plans to increase the combined capital of the only two governmental banks in the country, from about $23 million currently to about $360 million next year. Deputies in parliament say that this increase is aimed at supporting housing loans for citizens, in order to help them face the increasing housing crisis in the country.

It is worth mentioning that Rasheed Bank’s capital is 2 billion Iraqi dinars (about $1.72 million) while Rafidain Bank’s capital is 25 billion dinars ($21.5 million).

In May 2012, the council of ministers agreed to increase the capital of Rafidain Bank to 400 billion dinars and that of Rasheed Bank to 300 billion dinars, using the two banks’ general reserve funds. However, the increase was not included in the 2013 budget.

An informed source in the Iraqi Ministry of Finance told Al-Monitor, “The country’s public budget for 2014 includes a capital increase for Rasheed Bank from 2 billion Iraqi dinars, and for Rafidain Bank from 25 billion dinars, to 200 billion dinars (about $180 million) for each of them.”

The source, who preferred to remain anonymous, added, “The government’s plan to raise the capital of the two banks consists of two phases. The first is supposed to be implemented next year, and the second will be implemented by 2015, when the capital of the two banks will be doubled again.”

For his part, Ibrahim al-Mutlaq, a member of the parliamentary Economic Committee, told Al-Monitor, “The capital increase for Rasheed and Rafidain Banks is a step taken to support the credit scheme for citizens wishing to build residential units.”

He added, “These two banks are running a credit program that will help citizens finance private housing projects. The most prominent feature of this program is the so-called ‘100 salaries’ credit. This is a loan given to civil servants that is equivalent to 100 nominal [monthly] salaries, provided that the civil servant can show the bank a title deed for a residential unit in his name.”

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