Economy Briefs: Iraq’s northern Kurdish region stops oil exports amid dispute with Baghdad

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BAGHDAD — An Iraqi Kurdish official said on Tuesday that the country’s self-ruled northern Kurdish region has suspended oil exports over a payment row with Baghdad, a development that could add to already souring relations between the Kurds and the Arab-led central government.

Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the Kurds have unilaterally struck more than 50 deals with foreign oil companies, even though Baghdad says they have no right to do so. In 2011, the two sides reached a tentative deal by which the Kurds send the oil to Baghdad, which sells it, and pays 50 percent of the revenues to the developers to reimburse the development costs.

In April, the Kurds halted exports of around 100,000 barrels a day, saying that Baghdad had made only two payments under the agreement and had failed to pay $1.5 billion they say they were owed.

Four months later, the Kurds agreed to restart exports as a good-will gesture. That allowed the two sides to reach a new agreement under which Baghdad would pay about $848 million to the companies in September.

However, Ali Hussein Balo, the adviser of the Kurdish Ministry of Natural Resources, said Baghdad sent only about $550 million and withheld the rest. That prompted the Kurds’ latest move.

CURRENCY

In politically and economically troubled Egypt, dollar takes on new importance

CAIRO — As Egypt prepared to release official results of the divisive constitutional referendum on Tuesday, the country edged deeper into economic crisis with some worried residents hoarding dollars for fear that the local currency could weaken significantly.

The anxiety over the economy was visible at currency exchanges in the upscale Cairo neighborhood of Zamalek, which ran out of dollars by midday and offered only euros — a rare occurrence. Some banks, too, said they had run out of cash dollars, forcing people to seek foreign currency from exchanges around the city.

Both political instability and economic fundamentals are playing a role in Egypt’s growing financial distress. A constitution drafted by Islamist allies of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi deeply polarized the country and sparked huge street demonstrations that at times exploded into deadly violence.

LABOR

Mediators look to head off looming dockworkers strike before pact expires

Federal mediators seeking to avoid a walkout of thousands of East Coast and Gulf Coast dockworkers from Massachusetts to Texas have called a meeting of them and shipping companies.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service said Monday that Director George Cohen called the meeting of the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance before the Dec. 29 expiration of the dockworkers’ contract extension.

Talks between the dockworkers and the shipping companies broke down Dec. 18, just weeks after a critical West Coast port complex was crippled by a strike involving a few hundred workers. Issues including wages are unresolved, but the key sticking point is container royalties, which are payments to union workers based on cargo weight.

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