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Friday, June 7, 2019

IMF Staff Completes 2019 Article IV Mission on Iraq

May 6, 2019

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. Based on the preliminary findings of this mission, staff will prepare a report that, subject to management approval, will be presented to the IMF's Executive Board for discussion and decision. 
  • Near-term vulnerabilities subsided in 2018, with the budget in surplus and a build-up in central bank reserves. Post-war reconstruction has been limited so far.
  • Fiscal deficits are projected to rise over the medium term, absent policy changes, and it will be hard to sustain capital spending. Growth is likely to slow markedly.
  • Tight control over current spending, particularly wages, and phased measures to boost non-oil revenue would make space for scaling up public investment and building fiscal buffers.

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team led by Gavin Gray visited Amman from April 26 to May 2, to hold discussions with the Iraqi authorities in the context of the 2019 Article IV Consultation. At the end of the visit, Mr. Gray made the following statement:

“The end of the war with ISIS and a rebound in oil prices provide an opportunity to rebuild the country and address long-standing socio-economic needs. However, the challenges to achieving these objectives are formidable. The economic recovery has been sluggish, post-war reconstruction is limited, and large current spending increases risk placing the public finances and central bank reserves on an unsustainable path. Moreover, combatting corruption is critical to promote the effectiveness of public institutions and to support private-sector investment and job creation.

“Near-term vulnerabilities subsided in 2018, with the budget in surplus and a build-up in central bank reserves. Non-oil growth is expected to increase to 5.4 percent in 2019 on the back of higher investment spending. However, fiscal deficits are projected to rise over the medium term, requiring financing that may crowd out the private sector or erode central bank reserves. In these circumstances, it would be hard to sustain capital spending, and growth would slow markedly.

“Policy changes and structural reforms—including to improve governance—are therefore essential to maintain medium-term sustainability and lay the foundations for inclusive growth.

“Fiscal policy should aim to scale up public investment gradually while building fiscal buffers. To make space for this, staff recommends budgetary savings of around 9 percent of GDP over the medium term through tight control of current spending, particularly public-sector wages, and phased measures to boost non-oil revenue. Setting ceilings on current expenditure in the 2020 budget onwards would strengthen the fiscal framework’s capacity to support higher capital spending and to adapt to oil price shocks. Key reforms should include:  
  • Containing public-sector wages. Spending pressures could be dampened in the short run through compensation measures such as capping allowances, bonuses and other non‑base wage payments, and by not fully replacing retirees. Structural measures will be required over the medium term, based on a functional workforce review as well as deeper civil service reform once new HR management and information systems are in place.  
  • Electricity reforms are key to addressing the weak quality of service and reducing the high budgetary costs, due to modest tariff rates, chronic non-payment of electricity bills, poor maintenance and over-reliance on expensive generation sources, coupled with losses throughout the generation, transmission, and distribution process. It would be important to ensure that the poor and most vulnerable are protected throughout this reform.  
  • Bolstering public financial management. Enhancing the legal framework and improving commitment and other control systems are key to minimizing misuse of public resources and restoring budgetary discipline.  
“In the financial sector, a robust plan to restructure the large public banks coupled with enhanced supervision is essential to secure financial stability and will help promote financial development and inclusion. Strengthening anti-money laundering and countering financing terrorism (AML/CFT) controls and oversight will help prevent Iraq’s financial sector from being misused for the laundering of criminal proceeds and terrorist financing.

“Addressing governance weaknesses and corruption vulnerabilities is critical to achieving the described policy objectives. As a first step, the authorities need to develop a comprehensive understanding of the corruption risks present in Iraq and then implement policies to tackle these risks in a coherent and coordinated manner. The legislative framework needs to be strengthened to effectively prevent officials from abusing their position or misusing state resources. To this end, laws strengthening the asset declaration regime and criminalizing illicit gains should be rapidly adopted. Furthermore, the independence and integrity of bodies involved in combatting corruption should be ensured and the AML/CFT regime should be mobilized to support anti-corruption efforts.
The team will prepare a report that, subject to management approval, is tentatively scheduled to be considered by the IMF’s Executive Board in July 2019.

“The IMF team would like to thank the authorities for the candid and constructive discussions during this visit.”

Monday, June 3, 2019

Iraqi crude exports jump to near-record levels in May

The federal government and KRG both increased their oil sales, combining for the second-highest monthly export average that Iraq has ever posted. Iraqi oil exports from both the federal government and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) increased in May, combining for 4.086 million barrels per day (bpd) – the second-highest monthly average ever.

The federal government reported selling an average 3.572 million bpd – a more than 3 percent increase from April – commanding an average sale price of $66.683 per barrel and earning $7.384 billion, the largest monthly haul since last October.

By of
Published Monday, June 3rd, 2019

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Dual Class LLCs

Dual class limited members cannot vote on everyday operational matters.

Limited liability companies are business structures legally distinct from their owners. To form an LLC, you file articles of organization with your secretary of state. LLC owners are called members. A dual LLC refers to a dual class LLC, which is a proposed Internal Revenue Service designation for a business that organizes as a multi-member LLC then defaults to tax treatment as a partnership.

Dual Class LLC

A dual class LLC is a special LLC that is classified as a limited partnership for tax purposes by the IRS. Instead of only one type of membership, or ownership, interest, if you operate a dual class LLC, your LLC has two types. Your dual class LLC’s general members function akin to a limited partnership whose general partners are open to full liability and actively run and manage the business. Limited partners contribute capital but play a passive role with no or little participation in management, and a dual class LLC’s limited members do the same.

Self-Employment Tax

A dual class LLC got its name because it offers two classes of membership interests. A dual class allows members of LLCs who default to tax treatment as a general partnership to avoid self-employment taxes. Under this proposed IRS rule, your LLC’s general members are subject to self employment taxes but its limited partners are not. Instead, your LLC’s non-managing members enjoy taxation similar to that of S corporation shareholders.


Congress never finalized this IRS rule therefore the dual class LLC rule is not in effect. The IRS’ general stance is if taxpayers comply with the most recent proposed rules, limited members will avoid IRS difficulties regarding any self-employment tax avoidance. Without a finalized rule, the IRS ultimately determines who is or is not considered a passive member from a tax perspective. Therefore, if you are an LLC member with elimination of self-employment taxes as your goal, consider consulting with an experienced LLC business service specialist and CPA to properly structure your dual class LLC.


Snake River Homes, LLC is a newly formed residential development firm with five members that chooses to operate as a dual class LLC. Two members are managing members, active in running the business. The other three members are passive members who simply contributed money to the LLC for investment purposes. The operating agreement that clearly designates two class levels, general and limited, and defines the responsibilities and rules governing each. The two general members contribute $20,000 each and agree to provide services worth $60,000 the first year. The three limited members contribute $80,000 in cash. The two general members will be subject to self-employment tax because of their involvement in the business but the three limited partners would not.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Iraq Close To Signing Mega $53 Billion Oil Deal

Iraq will soon finalize a large-scale, long-term deal for the development of oil fields in the South with Exxon and PetroChina. The 30-year contract will involve investments of US$53 billion and potential returns for Baghdad of as much as US$400 billion over its lifetime, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told media this week.
The deal has been in the making for four years and will involve the development of two oil fields in southern Iraq—Nahr Bin Umar and Artawi—and the construction of water supply infrastructure to southern fields in order to keep their production steady. As a result of the project, the combined production of Nahr Bin Umar and Artawi should hit half a million barrels of oil daily, from 125,000 bpd today.

“Talks now between the oil ministry and Exxon Mobil and PetroChina are focused on how to split profits if oil prices rise or decline,” Abdul Mahdi told Reuters in response to a question regarding a potential date for the finalization of the contract.
Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest oil exporter, has made no secret of its plans to considerably increase its oil production rates, despite the two OPEC+ production cut agreements, during which Iraq never really hit its allocated production quota. Raising production in the long term will be challenging, as an IHS Markit report from last year suggested, so the Exxon-PetroChina deal should be a very welcome development.
Iraq, the study noted, has a production capacity for 7 million bpd, but chances are its actual production will only grow marginally over the next decade, to about 5 million bpd, and not just because of the still difficult political and economic situation. Iraq’s oil industry has a purely technical problem: infrastructure and it is in this respect that the Exxon-PetroChina deal’s significance lies.
By Irina Slav - May 08, 2019, 3:00 PM CDT

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Iraq's 2019 budget busts IMF deal

The Iraqi parliament randomly amended the government's 2019 draft budget to include provisions that increase spending, a move that contravenes an agreement with the International Monetary Fund and that has led to threats of court challenges.

Iraqi President Barham Salih approved the controversial 2019 budget on Feb. 4. The budget passed the parliament Jan. 23 after long debates over allocations for the Kurdistan Region and southern provinces and amendments that ignored Iraq's obligations under an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mandating austerity measures until 2021. 
The Iraqi parliament approved draft legislation for the 2019 budget amid objections from authorities in the southern provinces. At 133.1 trillion Iraqi dinars ($112.6 billion), the budget, if passed, would be the country's third largest, behind those for 2013 and 2014. With a 27.8% increase in spending, it would appear to blow up the IMF agreement.
Compared to the 2018 budget, the current one estimates oil exports of 3.88 million barrels per day (bpd), a daily decrease of 8,000. It also assumes a $10 per barrel price increase, which based on the current market would be from $46 to $56. Budgeted oil revenue accounts for 88.8% of total revenues.
Meanwhile tax revenues and fees are set at 6.8 trillion dinars ($5.7 billion), compared to last year's 9.2 trillion dinars ($7.7 billion). The decrease in taxes is evidence in and of itself of the government’s non-compliance with the IMF Stand-by Arrangement to reform the economy.
The IMF-required reforms included raising personal and business taxes to increase state revenue and halting increases to the government payroll. Yet, the 2019 budget provides for a 24.7% increase in state employee salaries, for a total of 43.4 trillion dinars ($36.7 billion). In addition, the state's domestic and foreign debt will increase by 30.87%, to 10.7 trillion dinars ($9 billion).
­A source at the Ministry of Finance speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Al-Monitor, “The members of parliament did not discuss the budget bill with the Ministry of Finance.” They also did not consult with the Ministry of Planning and simply amended provisions at will. The source added, “The Iraqi government will file an appeal to the Supreme Court to reverse the amendments and articles added by the parliament.”
In Iraq's budget process, the government prepares a draft budget and sends it to the parliament, which is allowed to offer amendments before approving it and sending it back to the government. If the government is unhappy with the legislative changes, it can approch the courts for resolution.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) should be pleased with the proposed budget, which provides it benefits not allocated since 2013.
Ahmad Hama, a Kurdish representative on the Parliamentary Finance Committee, told Al-Monitor, “The Kurds have a few comments on the 2019 budget, but it is fair to them since it guarantees the salaries of [KRG] employees, increases the region’s share [of expenditures] from 12.67% to 13.93% of the total budget and gives the region $2 billion in investment loans.”
Hama also observed, “The 2019 budget resolves some issues ongoing with Baghdad over the years, announcing a fresh start for ties with Baghdad.
One of those issues involves oil. “The Kurdistan Region produces 480,000 barrels of oil per day,” Hama remarked. “Baghdad’s share [from that] will be 250,000 barrels. Added to that, there are 150,000 barrels used within the region for daily consumption, so the region will benefit from exporting 80,000 barrels.” Kurdistan ships both its share of oil as well as Baghad's to market through a pipeline to Ceyhan, Turkey, and then disburses Baghdad its share of the revenue, as per prior agreement.
The government allocated 1 trillion dinars ($846 million) for the petrodollar project allocating a percentage of oil revenues for oil-producing provinces suffering damage from the industry. The regions suffering the most from production and refining receive a higher share of the amount set aside. For example, Basra are to receive 69.2%, Kirkuk 6.3%, and Wasit 4% in the 2019 budget. The Kurdistan Region was excluded. Local authorities can use the money at their own discretion, such as to buy power, send residents abroad for medical treatment and provide other services.
Southern province representatives were not pleased with the budget. They have criticized the draft budget because it does not allocate enough funding to complete stalled projects or quell popular dissatisfaction that eruped in protests last year over the lack of basic services, including potable water and electricity.
Ahmad al-Salayti, speaker of the Basra governorate council told Al-Monitor, “The 2019 budget confiscated the rights of Basra governorate and gave it less than its constitutional right [to petrodollars]. This is particularly crucial since Iraq’s economy greatly relies on Basra.”
Salayti stated, “The main problem is that the budget bill was not yet distributed to the members of parliament, and it was not published on the parliament’s website either [before the vote].” He added, “When we asked some members of parliament, they said that they did not know what they voted on and that the amendment and addition of articles to the 2019 budget was disorganized and random.”
“This is the first time Iraq has witnessed such chaos in passing the budget, which demonstrates the parliament’s negligence toward the Iraqi people,” Salayti remarked. “Basra governorate will appeal to the Supreme Court regarding the budget [if passed], and it will approach the Iraqi courts.”
The draft budget should be sent to parliament and approved before the start of the new year, but it is usually behind schedule, meaning the government conducts public finance without a budget plan. This unaccountability is a major source of corruption. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018 gave Iraq a score of 18 out of 100, with 1 being highly corrupt and 100 very clean. Last year, Iraq did not follow its budget to the letter, only implementing 80% of the budget at the most.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has a background in economics and attained office based in part on an economic reform agenda. Yet, his government is repeating the mistakes of 2012 and 2013 by randomly increasing spending without investing in developing production sectors.
Iraq is currently experiencing crises in health, agriculture, industry, education, and energy production. The rate of health expenditures under the current budget is only 2.4%, while agricultural allowances do not exceed 1% and education 3.6%. To be productive, the budget must be aligned with economic realities, not political goals.
It appear that the budget crisis, which began in October, might last another three months as the government makes plans to appeal to the courts over parliament's random amendments and other changes to the draft budget.


Salam Zidane is an Iraqi journalist specializing in economics. He has written for several local and international media sources such as Al-Jazeera and The New Arab.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/01/iraq-2019-budget-monetary-fund.html#ixzz5f90wNxWi

Thursday, January 31, 2019

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