Protests in Iraq as anger simmers over currency devaluation

Hundreds of angry Iraqis protested Monday in several cities against a currency devaluation that has slashed their purchasing power amid a pandemic-fuelled economic crisis.

The Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) at the weekend devalued the currency by over a fifth against the US dollar, officially re-pegging the dinar at a bank rate of 1,460 to the greenback.

On Monday, hundreds gathered in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, demanding the government change tack, furious at the first devaluation in a half-decade.

“The government should collapse before the dinar,” one sign held by a young protester read.

Many of the protesters were elderly who said the value of their pensions had been cut.

Riot police with shields and helmets stood guard at Tahrir, but the protest was peaceful.

Tahrir Square had been occupied round-the-clock for a year by a protest movement demanding an end to government corruption, but the demonstrators were cleared out in an army-led operation in October.

Iraq, which relies on oil sales to finance more than 90% of its budget, is set to see its economy shrink by 11% this year, while poverty doubles to 40% of the country’s 40 million residents, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates.

“If we hadn’t changed the currency rate or adjusted our expenditures, our (foreign currency) reserves could have run out in six or seven months,” Finance Minister Ali Allawi told local reporters on Sunday.

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