- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2005

BAGHDAD (Agence France-Presse) — Iraq’s cash economy will get a jolt of modernity in the coming weeks — automated teller machines and credit cards, the president of the Trade Bank of Iraq said yesterday.

“We expect to have cash machines in 10 days in Baghdad,” said Hussein al-Uzri, president of the Trade Bank of Iraq, which was set up in December 2003 as part of an international consortium of banks headed by JPMorgan Chase.

Besides serving as regular cash-dispensing machines, the ATMs are also expected to be used to pay government workers, a U.S. Treasury official said on the condition of anonymity.

“If we can get government payroll on direct deposit, then you’re close to using ATM machines,” the official said. “That’s the solution for a lot of different things.”

Only a few Iraqi banks are currently working and most people keep their Iraqi dinars under the mattress.

Government salaries are mostly paid in cash, over the counter, at the banks.

Iraqi businessmen often move large amounts of money around the Middle East through hawala, a traditional system of money transfer, because the country’s two state-owned banks are barred from international transactions because of an estimated $30 billion in commercial debt.

Britain-based Card Tech Limited recently signed an agreement with the Trade Bank of Iraq to provide card-issuing services, according to a statement on the bank’s Web site.

The bank will issue “a Visa Classic Card targeted for travel and entertainment usage and a Visa Electron salary card,” the bank said.

The bank opened to handle the financial end of importing equipment and supplies.

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