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New report details damage to Iraqi economy during COVID-19 pandemic

The report by the UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration shows how virus-related restrictions have led to revenue and job losses for small and medium-sized businesses in Iraq.
The Nabi Younes market is seen empty during a curfew imposed by Iraqi authorities, following the outbreak of coronavirus, in east Mosul, Iraq March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Abdullah Rashid - RC29KF9K7L0M

A new International Organization for Migration (IOM) report sheds light on the negative impact the coronavirus has had on the Iraqi economy. The intergovernmental organization said that restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the pandemic will continue to hurt small and medium-sized businesses in Iraq.

“The already dire situation is likely to deteriorate and become even more challenging for job and economic opportunity creation,” the IOM said in the report. “Livelihoods have been widely disrupted across the country, driven primarily by movement restrictions."

The IOM is a “related organization” of the United Nations and works closely with the international body on migration and displacement issues. Its Enterprise Development Fund supports job creation and economic growth in Iraq. The country hosts more than a million internally displaced persons and refugees. The fund was responsible for the report.

Iraq went into a lockdown in March when its number of confirmed coronavirus cases was still relatively low. Only essential businesses like supermarkets and pharmacies remained open. The country then eased restrictions in late April. Late last month, Iraq returned to a full lockdown after a surge in cases.

The report based its findings on data collected in April from small and medium-sized enterprises in the manufacturing, food, retail, service and other sectors. Small and medium-sized enterprises are independent firms that do not rely on subsidies and have a few hundred employees or less.

Across all economic sectors, sales went down by 71% and employment reduced by 40% for these businesses in Iraq. Salaries also reduced by 36%, according to the report.

The economic damage varied by region. For example, the average loss of weekly revenue for businesses was $6,045 in the capital Baghdad. In the northern Diyala province, this figure was only $756, according to a map of the data from the Enterprise Development Fund.

Coronavirus cases are climbing in Iraq by about 1,000 a day now. The latest figures from the Iraqi Ministry of Health put the total number of cases recorded in Iraq at 16,675. This means the economic damage could continue for months or longer.

Many Iraqis oppose the virus restriction measures, despite the rising cases. The autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq recently lifted a reimposed lockdown following protests throughout the region by people who demanded to return to work.