News: U.S. partners with Iraq to stabilize economy
By Sgt. Tresa L. Allemang
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq – "Iraq's Victory Base Complex vendors, contractors and civilians will soon have a new bank to meet their financial service needs," said Maj. Andrea Singer, as bank officials and employees broke ground at Camp Liberty in Baghdad for the Iraqi-based Industrial Zone's Golden Construction Company to begin building the Bank of Baghdad.
Singer, the theater financial management liaison officer for the 326th Theater Financial Management Center, said the Victory Base Complex branch of Bank of Baghdad will be one of 10 Iraqi banks to be established on U.S. bases throughout Iraq. And is the second on VBC, as part of the Banks on Bases Initiative.
The new bank, expected to open in about 10 weeks, will ease the impact on the Iraq Joint Operations Area as the financial management units help set the conditions for the responsible drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq, said Capt. Eric C. LaBay of Denver, Colo., the 15th Financial Management Company Banking and E-Commerce officer.
Singer of Los Angeles, Calif., explained that the goal of the Banks on Bases Initiative is to eventually transition the installation, as well as the rest of the country, into using Iraqi Dinar instead of U.S. currency to help strengthen the Iraqi economy.
"The dependence on U.S. currency has resulted in the dollarization of the Iraqi economy, which increases the probability of fraud and exposes service members to unnecessary risk by creating a potential funding source for our adversaries," she said. "By de-dollarizing the Iraqi economy we are helping to strengthen the Iraqi business and banking infrastructure and improving the value of the local currency."
Singer said this bank will be available for use by local nationals, third-country nationals, and contractors working on Victory Base Complex, and also noted that the Bank of Baghdad was approved by the U.S. Treasury to hold government funds for U.S. Army finance companies.
"Having banks on bases throughout Iraq also allows the U.S. government to send electronic payments to our vendors rather than disburse cash," added Capt. Shaun Miller, U.S. Army Central Command banking officer for Iraq.
"We have already seen a domino-like effect at other bases, where vendors and contractors are turning around and paying their employees electronically as well," said Miller, a Washington D.C. resident. "We are promoting financial cultural change toward the banking system, and away from cash."
"This bank will not only create jobs, but will also increase the confidence in the Iraqi Dinar and the Iraqi banking system," Singer stated. "Iraqi's are still learning to place faith in their banking system because when Saddam was in power, it was not uncommon for him to seize bank assets."
She said as local nationals see the benefits of using their banking system; they will gain confidence and will begin establishing checking and savings accounts, as well as be able to obtain loans.
To date, the U.S. Financial Management Community and the Iraqi Based Industrial Zone, known as IBIZ, with assistance from Miller, have been responsible for officially opening Iraqi banks on two of the U.S. Enduring Bases. Eight additional "Banks on Bases," have been solicited throughout Iraq, and are expected to be operational within the year.
"This is a great example of the partnership we've created," Fort Leavenworth, Kan., native, Maj. Jerry England, IBIZ project coordinator said. "Together we are working to build the economy."