By Waheed Ghanim.
Currency Class War: Damaged Dinar Notes result in Bribery, Injustice
Exchange shops, bank cashiers and savvy housewives are doing big business as they deal with Iraq’s dodgy, damaged, low-denomination notes - for a price. The losers? Pensioners and low-income earners who end up with cash they can barely use.
Every two months Makiya, a 65-year-old Iraqi woman, travels a long way to pick up her pension in cash. She lives 40 kilometres out of Basra and the journey is a difficult one for her. And then to her chagrin, whenever she gets her pension, it mostly comes in low-denomination notes that are damaged, torn or otherwise destroyed.
"The people who come to collect their pensions are not treated the same way as others,” Makiya complains. “To get clean, undamaged bank notes you have to pay the bankers a bribe.”
Additionally Makiya says that if anybody complains about the IQD3,000 that is usually deducted from the payments by the bankers –a service fee taken for no apparent reason, she says - they are punished by being given even more of the damaged or distressed banknotes.
“And then when you get the damaged bank notes you can’t do anything with them because nobody accepts this money,” Makiya says.
The descriptions “talef” and “naqes” are often used by people like Makiya when they talk about money. Respectively the words mean damaged and missing and are terms used to describe the smaller notes – the IQD1,000 notes and the half and quarter dinar notes – that those who can’t afford to pay for better, bigger banknotes end up with.