Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings in modern times. In the 1980s, financial problems caused by massive expenditures in the eight-year war with Iran and damage to oil export facilities by Iran led the government to implement austerity measures, borrow heavily, and later reschedule foreign debt payments; Iraq suffered economic losses of at least $80 billion from the war. After the end of hostilities, in 1988, oil exports gradually increased with the construction of new pipelines and restoration of damaged facilities.
Since mid-2009, oil export earnings have returned to levels seen before Operation New Dawn and government revenues have rebounded, along with global oil prices. In 2011 Baghdad probably will increase oil exports above the current level of 1,900,000 bbl (300,000 m3) per day as a result of new contracts with international oil companies, but is likely to fall short of the 2,400,000 barrels (380,000 m3) per day it is forecasting in its budget. Iraq's recent contracts with major oil companies have the potential to greatly expand oil revenues, but Iraq will need to upgrade its oil processing, pipeline, and export infrastructure to enable these deals to reach their potential.
An improved security environment and an initial wave of foreign investment are helping to spur economic activity, particularly in the energy, construction, and retail sectors. Broader economic improvement, long-term fiscal health, and sustained increases in the standard of living still depend on the government passing major policy reforms and on continued development of Iraq's massive oil reserves. Although foreign investors viewed Iraq with increasing interest in 2010, most are still hampered by difficulties in acquiring land for projects and by other regulatory impediments.
Inflation has decreased consistently since 2006 as the security situation has improved. However, Iraqi leaders remain hard pressed to translate macroeconomic gains into improved lives for ordinary Iraqis. Unemployment remains a problem throughout the country. Reducing corruption and implementing reforms - such as bank restructuring and developing the private sector - would be important steps in this direction.