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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Hugh Tant III

Hugh Tant III
It is terrific to be with you. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address your questions this evening. I am talking to you from the ICE (Iraqi Currency Exchange) project room in one of Saddam's palaces. We like to call it the ICE box. Around the walls are various colorful pictures of the old currency (featuring Saddam) and the new currency (without Saddam). In addition to the currency posters around the room, there are various maps and charts that help us map the delivery of the Iraqi currency throughout the country.

JoJo, from Farmington, New Mexico writes:
How Much is the New Currency Worth in American Dollars?

Hugh Tant III
The new Iraqi currency's rate is currently stands at 1,955 Dinar to one US dollar. A 10,000 Dinar note is worth approximately $5 US. To give you an idea of what 10,000 Dinar can buy, here are a few examples. Iraqis can buy a pair of child's shoes for 10,000 Dinar, 2 pounds of bananas for $.75 (1500 Dinar), a can of Coca Cola from the market costs $.25 (500 Dinar) and the Iraqi equivalent of a sandwich lunch (pita bread with meat and salad) for about $0.63 (1250 Dinar).

James, from Montana writes:
How well is the new Iraqi Currency being received by the Iraqi citizens and the surrounding countries?

Hugh Tant III
The Iraqi exchange is confined to Iraq and the currency is being well received by the citizens. The exchange program runs from October 15 of this year to January 15 of 2004.

We have completed almost 5 weeks and 67% of the expected amount to be converted has already been accomplished. I have spoken with numerous Iraqi citizens and each one has said they are very happy to finally have one currency that is secure and stable for the entire country.

They comment on how beautiful the new currency is and readily pull it from their pockets to show it off - and say "no more Saddam!"

Caleb, from Vancouver, WA writes:
How long did it take to decide on what the new Iraqi currency will look like, and who decided what it will look like.

Hugh Tant III
The Central Bank of Iraq decided on what the new currency would look like. They decided that it would resemble the old "Swiss" Dinar that the entire country used prior to Saddam printing notes with his picture on them, in the early 1990s, after the first Gulf War.

These new notes have many historical and cultural characters and places that are unique and important to the people of Iraq.

Casey, from Red Bluff, Ca. writes:
Will the old iraqi currency still be accepted or will it be worthless?

Hugh Tant III
Thanks for your question. The conversion period is from October 15 of this year to January 15 of 2004. During this period, Iraq will work in the two old currencies that exist and the new currency.

The old currencies are the "Swiss" Dinar primarily used in the Kurdish north and the other, the "Print" or "Saddam" Dinar, used in the central and southern parts of Iraq.

However, after January 15, only the new Dinar will have value and be used by the Iraqi people.

Andrew, from Roseville, California writes:
Who designed the new Iraqi currency and why was it designed that way? Where is it printed? In the USA or in Iraq? Thanks

Hugh Tant III
The Central Bank of Iraq decided on what the new currency would look like. De La Rue based in England was the company chosen to print the new Dinar.

This company printed the Dinar used by Iraq prior to the Saddam Dinar and actually still had some of the old printing plates which were updated for the new money.

De La Rue used 5 factories around the world to print the new Dinar - in England, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Malta and Germany. The Spanish Government generously donated resources too - printing the 250 Dinar denomination notes at its print works in Spain.

Ruth, from Oceanview,N.J. writes:
Dear General Tant, How was the Dinar chosen as the Iraqi currency and how was the design on the front and back of the bill decided? And, has the President seen the new bill? Thank you.

Hugh Tant III
The front and back of the notes were decided upon by the Central Bank of Iraq. The designs represent cultural and historically unique people and places from both history and current life.

The deputy Governor of the Central Bank, Ahmed Al Jaburi, told me he thought the mix of illustrations showed the harmony of the ancient and the modern in Iraq.

US Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, a member of the President's Cabinet, helped kick off the currency exchange program here in Baghdad on October 15.

At that time, he was presented some of the new Iraqi Dinar by the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, Dr. Sinan al Shabibi. I would suspect that Secretary Evans has shown President Bush the currency first hand.

Dave, from Roseville, CA writes:
Will the Iraqi people eventually take over control of their money supply? Also, what is the collateral for their currency?

Hugh Tant III
The Iraqi people already have control of their money supply. Their collateral, like in the US, is based on foreign exchange, precious metals (like gold) and Treasury bills.

Raul, from Boston, MA writes:
Mr. Tant, How does your office determine the correct rate of exchange for the new Iraqi currency, that for all intents and purposes, is virtually worthless in the world's markets?

Thank you.

Hugh Tant III
The Central Bank of Iraq conducts a 'foreign exchange auction' process about 3 times per week to help ensure the new currency is stable. This process helps determine the exchange rate.

At the moment, due to Iraqi exchange controls, the currency is not exchanged outside Iraq. This is likely to change in the future as Iraq continues to be welcomed back into the international financial community.

As oil exports increase and more funds are invested in Iraqi goods and services from outside the country, it is expected that the new Iraqi Dinar will appreciate in value over the long-term.

Mark, from Santa Fe writes:
How is the Iraqi money backed? Do they have a gold standard? Is the old Dinar worth anything now? Are most transactions still in American dollars?

Hugh Tant III
The Iraqi money is backed by foreign exchange, treasury notes and precious metals such as gold. Iraq does not maintain a gold standard. During the conversion period, the old Dinar still has value.

However, on January 15, the old Dinar will be worthless as a median of exchange. Dinar is the currency of choice in Iraq. Nearly all transactions are conducted in Dinar.

Michael, from Collegedale,TN writes:
Have you encountered any counterfeit bills yet in Iraq? If so how many? And what preventive measures are you taking?

Hugh Tant III
Counterfeit bills have definitely been encountered in the old Dinar here in Iraq. This is one of the primary reasons for changing to a new currency.

The Iraqi people deserve a single, stable and secure currency which is the first step toward economic prosperity. The US Secret Service has reported that there were roughly two counterfeit notes per thousand in the old currency. That is a high rate.

The new currency has many security features which dramatically reduces the ability to counterfeit it. For example, it has a watermark, raised letters and numbers, very high quality paper and metallic thread in each of the bills.

Millions of posters and handbills distributed all over Iraq explained these new security features to the people. Obviously, as with US bills, there are additional security features that are kept secret.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you what those are. Additionally when an Iraqi opens their wallet or purse, they are no longer reminded of Saddam since his image has been eliminated.

Walter, from Brooklyn, NY writes:
Does the currency exchange include both paper and coin?

Hugh Tant III
The new Iraqi Dinar consists of six denominations all of which are paper currency. There are no coins presently used in Iraq. This does not mean that there is no future for coins in Iraq. That will be decided by the Central Bank of Iraq.

Joanna, from Traverse City Mi. writes:
Mr. Tant, I have wondered what the new currency you are making looks like. Do you have scenes of the peopleculture, or perhaps former leaders of their country printed on their new money? From what we are hearing, it sounds like there is so much going on to restore Iraq to a free and prosperous nation. It must be almost like a beehive It would be very interesting to get the BIG picture of all that's going on so we could get a grasp of the dramatic changes taking place in Iraq.God continue to bless you all in this good work.

Hugh Tant III
Thank you for your question. There is a lot of great work going on here with daily progress in Iraq. As for the currency, the illustrations are differently colored than on the old notes. Some of the designs are as follows:

- The illustrations on the 25000 Dinar note are new. The Bank chose the design concept and it features a Kurdish lady farmer holding sheaf of just-cut wheat on the front side and King Hammurabi (wrote the first code of law in human history and founded the First Dynasty of Babylon in 1700 BC, leading Babylonia into a period of great prosperity) is on the back side.

- The front side of the 10,000 Dinar note features Abu Ali Hasan Ibn al-Haitham (known as Alhazen to medieval scholars in the West). He was born Basrah in 965 A.D. His most important work - although he wrote some 200 books - is held to be a seven volume series on optics Kitab al-Manazir, in which he gives the first correct explanation of vision, showing that light is reflected from an object into the eye. He was also, an eminent physicist and mathematician he developed analytical geometry by establishing linkage between algebra and geometry.) The back side features Hadba Minaret, at the Great Nurid Mosque, Mosul, built 1172 A.D by Nurridin Zangi, the then Turkish ruler. The 180 foot-high minaret leans 8 feet off the perpendicular. That is how it earned its Arabic name Al-Hadba ('the humped').

- The front side of the 5000 Dinar note features Gully Ali Beg and its 2500 foot waterfall. The 6 mile gully passes between Mount Kork and Mount Nwathnin, some 36 miles away from Shaqlawa, in the Kurdish area. The back side shows the second century desert fortress of Al-Ukhether, Hejira.

- The front side of the 1000 Dinar note shows a gold Islamic Dinar coin, minted in Damascus in the first century AD. The back side shows Al-Mustansirya University in Baghdad. The university was built in the mid-thirteenth century it was the most prominent university in the Islamic world in the Middle Ages.

- The front side of the 250 Dinar note shows the astrolabe. The astrolabe is one of the earliest scientific instruments - able to measure the time of day or night and altitude and latitude - conceived by the Greeks it was further developed by medieval Arab astronomers, who used it to help determine the time for fasting during the month of Ramadan. The back of the note shows the Spiral Minaret in Samarra, built 848-849 A.D. Samarra was then the Abbasid Empire's capital city.

- The front of the 50 Dinar note contains a picture of the grain silo at Basrah. Working at full capacity the facility can off-load and process 60,000 tons of grain per hour. The back of the note shows date palms. Iraq used to be the world's largest producer and exporter of dates. Over 600 varieties are grown in-country.

Sean, from Midlothian, Virginia writes:
What are the short and long-term benefits of the adoption of the dinar as the currency in Iraq?

Hugh Tant III
Basically, Iraqi people deserve a single, stable and secure currency which is convenient to use. The currency needs to be single because currently there are two different currencies and exchange rates -- one in the north kurdish region and another for the rest of the country.

The currency will faciliate the integration of Iraq into a single country.

The currency needs to be stable....

To finance his endeavors, saddam printed his money which led to high inflation and undermined the confidence in the economy. Ambassador Bremer has announced a ban on inflationary financing in the government -- this is a precondition for a stable currency which is essential for sustanable growth

It needs to be secure.....

The "print" Dinar sometimes known as the Saddam's Dinar was a cheap currency on poor quality paper and few security features. As a result, there were widespread concerns about counterfeits which undermines trust in the currency.

Thje new currency is state of the art. Made of durable paper and features a number of anti-counterfeiting features. And some of those features are watermarks, raised printing of the numbers and the words, and a metallic strip.

Finally, the currency needs to be convenient. There is a great need for new denominations. Right now, the majority of notes in the central and southern parts of Iraq are either 250 dinar or 10,000 dinar. Nothing between them.

Imagine trying to make change or carry a useful amount of cash when all the denominations are either 5 dollars or 50 dollars. That's what it is like. The new denominations which run from 50 dinar to 25,000 dinar will solve that problem.

In the north, there is not enough swiss dinar to finance transactions leading to rpbleems, over-appreciation of the currency since there are not enough swiss dinar to meet demand. Furthermore, the swiss dinar is over 10 years old and literally falling apart.

As an additional bonus, the new currency will not force the people of Iraq to look at Saddam's face everytime they purchase good. The new celebrates the history and culture of the Iraqi people. The old denominations were one dollar or 50

Sofia, from Washington, D.C. writes:
Thank you for answering questions today on this very important issue. Could you please explain the process by which you are phasing out the old Iraqi Dinar and introducing the new currency? Are you approaching it regionally and what is the phase-out period? Thank you very much.

Hugh Tant III
We are performing the conversion of Iraq in phases throughout Iraq. The initial phases were to ensure that we had enough new Iraqi dinar to ensure the conversion on the October 15. We took thousands of boxes of dinar into six denominations and provided security for the convoys to 250 banks throughout Iraq. A huge logistics and security challenge.

From the 4th of October to the 14th of october we had a massive logistics and security operation to ensure that the banks had sufficient funds to perform the conversion on the 15th.

The conversion is from October 15, 2003 to January 15, 2004.

Right now, we have been in the exchange program for almost five weeks. and we have converted 2/3 of the entire amount of money that is needed in circulation in Iraq.

Now we are moving to another phase and the effort is to collect the old dinar . the old dinar means about 9,000 tons of currency. it needs to be brought back to baghdad and verified by the central bank of iraq and then we will destroy it.

when the currency is exchanged at the counters in the banks, old dinar is taken in and the new dinar is given to the customer. old dinar is checked and verified to ensure they aren't counterfeits and then it is defaced.

The way they deface it is interesting. They dip it in a permanent red dye covering about 1/3rd of the note. So that helps prevent the note from going back out the back door and into the front door once again.

These notes are placed in sacks that weight approximately 55 pounds. They have validation certificates in them -- the bank branch and the teller. So when all this money goes to the central bank in Baghdad it is verified by teams of about 600 people.

If there was a problem with a particular sack, they would know which bank branch and which teller might need to be checked out.

If everything goes ok, the bag is taken and destroyed.

Rankin, from Sherman writes:
How long will you be staying in Iraq? Did you ever think you'd be doing this?

Hugh Tant III
I'll be here until the job is done and that will be about four months total. I never had a clue that I'd be doing this. I always was involved in money so it was natural.

I managed 43 million dollars when I was a general in the Pentagon. I was involved in money throughout my career in the Army. Helping out with currency and I'm a big believer in what the President is doing over here and these are the skills i had to offer so someone called me.

I was sitting in my bank that I was working in. I got a call and they told me what was needed. It was the right thing to do immediately. I got a call on a Friday and I was in the mideast on Thursday. I didn't have to think about it for very long. I knew it was the right thing to do.

Tramar, from Southampton writes:
When you are the Director of the Iraqi Currency Exchange what is the duty? Do you connect from Iraq to the White House to tell the plans are or do the iraqis keep it confidential?

Hugh Tant III
The duties is to be responsible for the everything the Iraqi exchange team does or -- I report to Ambassador Bremer.

There are 700 people that perform the tasks of the Iraqi Currency Team. There about 70 expats from the world, New , South Africa, Britain, Australia and the U.S.

This team loads up the currency and convoys and we perform about 8 convoys a day. We are taking new money to the banks or collecting old money from the bank.

We also have our own aircraft that helps us carry tons of old or new dinar to remote locations which are placed in centers -- the convoy teams take them out to further remote locations throughout Iraq.

We report back daily as to what has been accomplished. Of course, we have plans for the following days work that needs to be accomplished. WE keep track of all of the banks and what they have converted and what their needs are.

Building ta communcations network has been a huge challenge. Wee've had to provide telephones, generators for electricity, ultraviolet lights so they could check for counterfeit currency,

I'm also responsible for this team -- the security force. They have to have a place to live, eat, showers, etc. All of these things are my responsibility to ensure there are adequate facilities.

We have a huge information program. WE had to get the word out to the Iraqi people. They put information in the newspapers daily way before the exchange program began. Brochures, pamphlets, flyers ==- make sure we get the word out about the exchange program and it is working extremely well.

We've already accomplished 67 percent of the exchange in only five weeks. We answer to the central bank of Iraq. The money belongs to the Iraqi people -- we have only done a means for them to convert the currency in the country.

Pam, from Wash, DC writes:
Why is the Iraqi currency known as Dinars? I know Algeria and Jordan use that term as well.

Hugh Tant III
Dinar comes from the greek word for money.

Hugh Tant III
Even though I'm in charge, I'm not the one that makes it happen. it is the team that makes it happen. I have wonderful leaders like John Rooney , who is my deputy for operations, John Dooley who helps us with project management, Karen Triggs for information operations, Colonel Phil Wilkinson who commands security and convoy teams, Abusha _______ who speaks Arabic and many other dialects and a strong pillar of support. It takes people like this to make this happen. He helps me with meetings across the country. There are a lot of people on this team that makes it happen. I try to give them the opportunity to make it happen. It is teamwork that works -- that's our motto. I've enjoyed answering your questions this evening (in Baghdad it is 10:35). My dedicated staff also include CPA staffer Larry Blume, planner Rob Peyton, Simon Gray of the Bank of England - and until recently Jacob Nell of the UK Treasury who was injured in the rocket blast at the Al Rasheed hotel three weeks ago and is now in England making a full recovery. Our thoughts are with him. Lt Col David Miller and Major Chuck Stachowski ensure our liaison with the Coalition military. Thanks to all of you and those I haven't mentioned individually too.

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