Madison, WI-When the idea for the Destination Baghdad Expo (DBX), a trade fair centered on reconstruction and security, was conceived in December 2003, it was to be held, naturally, in Baghdad itself. But escalating violence and security concerns forced it to be relocated twice, finally occurring 400 miles from Baghdad, in the ancient city of Diyarbakir, Turkey. The culmination of more than a year's efforts, which drew 200 exhibitors from 24 countries, proved as unpredictable as its planning process.
"It started slow but came out great," said Jesus Chavez, technical development regulatory systems officer for the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), of the mid-May event. WOCCU attended as an exhibitor with the intent of educating participants on the credit union difference.
The expo opened new doors. As Chavez explained, "there are no credit unions in Turkey either, so we had a lot of inquiries from the Turkish as well."
WOCCU's most important task during DBX, however, was to lobby for a credit union exemption from current banking legislation in Iraq that would allow credit unions to operate in that market.
In February, the Coalitional Provisional Authority (CPA), Iraq's U.S.-led interim government, passed a law requiring all Iraqi banks to hold a minimum of 10 billion dinars, the equivalent of US$7 million, at all times. This law arose as a response to the dire banking situation the country currently faces.
Essentially, Iraq operates with a cash economy. Many restaurants and hotels will not accept credit cards, and moneylenders operating from street corners are the only "financial institutions" most Iraqis recognize. But in their effort to legitimize the failed industry, the CPA barred entry to smaller scale financial institutions, even though they possess the ability to provide safe and sound financial services to all Iraqis.
Chavez pointed out that because we are nearing the June 30 handover of power from the United States government to a fully autonomous Iraqi governing body, it is not possible to change legislation immediately. Instead, he hopes to work within the current framework and continue to impress upon government officials the importance of allowing credit unions to participate in Iraq's economy.
WOCCU will continue to push until these barriers are eliminated, with the driving goal of providing hope of self-sufficiency for the Iraqi people. "We have to get the banking law changed," said Chavez. "That's really the bottom line."
El Consejo Mundial de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito es la asociación gremial y agencia de desarrollo para el sistema internacional de cooperativas de ahorro y crédito. El Consejo Mundial promueve el crecimiento sustentable de las cooperativas de ahorro y crédito y otras cooperativas financieras en todo el mundo a fin de facultar a las personas para que mejoren su calidad de vida a través del acceso a servicios financieros asequibles y de alta calidad. El Consejo Mundial realiza esfuerzos de defensa activa en representación del sistema global de las cooperativas de ahorro y crédito ante organizaciones internacionales y trabaja con gobiernos nacionales para mejorar la legislación y la regulación. Sus programas de asistencia técnica introducen nuevas herramientas y tecnologías para fortalecer el desempeño financiero de las cooperativas de ahorro y crédito y profundizar su alcance comunitario.
El Consejo Mundial ha implementado 290 programas de asistencia técnica en 71 países. A nivel mundial, 57,000 cooperativas de ahorro y crédito en 103 países atienden a 208 millones de personas. Obtenga más información sobre el impacto global del Consejo Mundial en www.woccu.org.