IMF Staff Concludes Staff Visit with Iraq

December 19, 2023

End-of-Mission press releases include statements of IMF staff teams that convey preliminary findings after a visit to a country. The views expressed in this statement are those of the IMF staff and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF’s Executive Board.
  • Economic activity is recovering, although oil production cuts are weighing on overall growth, and at the same time inflation has declined.
  • The large fiscal expansion in the three-year budget law poses significant risks to fiscal and external sustainability over the medium term.
  • Fiscal prudence and structural reforms are critical to safeguard macroeconomic stability, ensure sustainability, and achieve durable and more inclusive growth.

Washington, DC: A staff team of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led by Jean-Guillaume Poulain met with the Iraqi authorities in Amman, Jordan during Dec 12-17 to discuss recent economic developments and outlook as well as policy plans.

At the end of the mission, Mr. Poulain issued the following statement:

“Against the background of a large fiscal expansion, non-oil GDP is expected to grow by 5 percent in 2023. Continued budget execution should help sustain strong non-oil growth in 2024. However, lower oil production, following the closure of the Iraq-Turkey pipeline and OPEC+ production cuts, will reduce overall GDP growth in 2023 and 2024. Inflation has declined from its January peak and is projected to stabilize in the coming months—helped by the Central Bank of Iraq’s (CBI) tighter monetary policy, passthrough from the exchange rate revaluation, lower international food prices, and normalization of trade finance as compliance to the new anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) framework improved.

“The three-year budget approved in June 2023 marked a shift in Iraq’s budgeting practice, envisaged to improve fiscal planning and continue important development projects over the medium term. Despite a late start of budget implementation, the fiscal balance is expected to shift from a large surplus in 2022 to a deficit in 2023. Staff projects that the deficit would widen further in 2024 reflecting the full year impact of recent measures. The large fiscal expansion, including a substantial increase in public hiring and pensions creates permanent spending that will put pressure on public finances over the medium term.

“Ensuring fiscal sustainability, in context of uncertain outlook for oil prices, requires gradually tightening the fiscal policy stance while safeguarding critical infrastructure and social spending needs. This would require mobilizing additional non-oil revenues, containing the large government wage bill, and reforming the pension system. These measures should be supported by moving toward a more targeted social safety net that better protects the vulnerable.

“The mission welcomed the government’s plans to strengthen public financial management including steps towards the establishment of the Treasury Single Account. In this context, the mission reiterated the importance of adhering to the framework for managing government guarantees.

“The CBI has appropriately tightened its monetary policy, including by increasing its policy rate and reserve requirement. The mission welcomed the progress in strengthening the domestic liquidity management framework and encouraged continued efforts to mop up excess liquidity and develop an interbank market to strengthen monetary policy transmission.

“Structural reforms to spur private sector led economic diversification and job creation remains pivotal for sustainable and inclusive growth. Priorities include creating a level playing field for the private sector through banking and electricity sector reforms, reducing distortions in the labor market, and continuing efforts to enhance governance and reduce corruption.

“The IMF staff team stands ready to support the authorities in their reform efforts and would like to thank them for candid and productive discussions during this mission.”

IMF Communications Department

PRESS OFFICER: Mayada Ghazala

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