Malta printing for Iraqs
By David Lindsay
US officials are making plans to eliminate Iraqs former currency
bearing the engraved likeness of fugitive Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein
and replace it over a 90-day period, with new bills featuring images
of the natural wonders of Iraq.
Interesting for Malta is the fact that many of the new dinars will be
printed in Malta, presumably at the De la Rue plant in Bulebel. In addition
to Malta, Iraqs new dinars will also be printed in Spain, Germany,
Sri Lanka and Britain.
De La Rue Malta, which employs close to 500 employees, has been operating
since 1975 with a great deal of success. The Malta installation, which
forms part of De La Rues Security Paper and Print Division made
up of four locations around the world, produces over 50 per cent of
De La Rues global output and is probably the single largest banknote
producing plant in private hands. With some 100 customers, De La Rue
Malta also has one of, if not the, largest market shares in currency
The USD100 million operation to swap Iraq's currency begins mid-October,
when bundles of the new currency will be ferried into Iraq by cargo
planes and sent to more than 300 currency distribution sites protected
by heavily-armed American GIs.
Iraq's currency now will now come in two denominations - the 250-dinar
bill with a fluctuating value of about 20 US cents and the 10,000 dinar
bill with a changing value of about USD8. They will be replaced by bills
in six denominations ranging from 50 dinars worth about four US cents
to 25,000 dinars worth about USD20.
The goal is to provide Iraqis a symbol of Iraq after Saddam, unify the
nation's currency, cut the risk of counterfeiting and make currency
more convenient, according to US officials.
John Taylor, the US Treasury's under-secretary for international affairs
overseeing the currency transition, says US officials hope a single
national currency will help quiet bitter regional and tribal rivalries
symbolised by Iraq's different currencies in different regions of the
country. So-called Swiss dinars circulate in Kurdish-controlled areas
in northern Iraq and pastel-coloured Saddam dinars circulate in Baghdad
and the southern two-thirds of Iraq.
"The new currency will be a national currency and symbolise national
unity again," Taylor said in a telephone interview last week.
Protecting distribution of the new currency remains a top priority for
US officials, who note that an estimated USD900 million was looted from
Iraqi banks before US troops and Iraqi police gradually took control.
"We don't see any obstacles at this point, but as with any kind
of operation like this, we may have to call audible signals on the ground,"
Taylor said. "We're ready for all contingencies."
Tom Nicastro, vice president of the Louis Berger Group consulting firm
that is handling logistics for the currency exchange, said security
is "always an issue when you carry large amounts of cash and valuable
equipment into areas that have not seen this kind of investment before."
He adds, "We think we know the strengths and weaknesses of the
logistics network in Iraq. We had no trouble - zero theft, zero robbery
- in Afghanistan."
In Afghanistan, Nicastro's firm relied on two fixed-wing planes, three
helicopters, 2,500 contract Afghan employees and watchful US combat
troops to swap an estimated 13 trillion old Afghanis for new currency
at 53 locations between 7 October 2002 and 2 January 2003.
Surveys are under way in Iraq to determine the logistics and security
requirements for what Nicastro describes as "just-in-time delivery"
of two billion new Iraqi bills.
The Bush administration moved quickly to implement a new currency in
Iraq after seeing the economic and political benefits of creating a
national currency during the US occupation of Afghanistan, Taylor said.
The Iraq currency swap will take place barely seven months after the
US military invasion began. Afghans waited a year before swapping three
currencies for a single national currency.
"We saw the importance and the value of a new currency making a
big difference in economic confidence," said Taylor, a former Stanford
University economist who served as a member of the White House Council
of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush.
Nicastro said the Afghan currency swap served as a "tremendously
stabilising influence" in post-Taliban Afghanistan. "It was
the initial national effort undertaken by the new Afghan government,
and it was a success."