MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INSIGHT – Iran: Signs of New Protests Against Rise in Prices

London, Tehran- Asharq Al-Awsat – 15 June 2020 – Signs of a new round of protests emerged in Tehran, after the rise in prices hit the foreign exchange market, pushing the dollar to a record high in two years.

Angry Iranians gathered on Sunday in front of the Central Bank headquarters, chanting slogans condemning the officials and demanding the resignation of the central bank governor, Abdolnaser Hemmati.

The latter was the center of recent speculations, as political circles in Tehran reported that he could run for the presidential elections scheduled for May 2021.

Iranian security forces cordoned off the streets leading to the bank, according to eyewitnesses’ reports on social networks.Meanwhile, the government adopted security measures and arrested officials to reduce popular discontent.Quoting the Iranian police chief, ILNA news agency reported that the authorities launched a new unit called the “economic security police” to counter economy breaches.

For its part, Fars Agency of the Revolutionary Guards quoted Colonel Nader Moradi, Deputy Commander of the Greater Tehran Police for Supervision of Commercial Venues, as saying that the police forces will “legally confront the officials of the home appliance unions who trade in goods with the aim of selling them at high prices that exceed the approved rates.”

The price of one dollar rose in recent days to 180,000 Iranian Rials, the highest record reached since August 2018, in parallel with the implementation of the US sanctions.

Iranians Reel from Economic Mafia, Currency Collapse

Monday, 15 June, 2020 – 09:30 Tehran – Asharq Al-Awsat – A soaring food inflation and growing prices of real estate and home appliances has struck Iran, raising fear among the people along with their concern on the coronavirus pandemic.

Purchasing power saw a significant decline as the prices of fruits and vegetables continued to increase by 30 to 40 percent.Economic sources said inflation is caused mainly by the collapse of the currency, the impact of the coronavirus, lack of state monitoring, and the presence of an “economic mafia.”

However, the sources believe that western sanctions imposed on the country are directly to be blamed for Iran’s economic hardship.

Iranians have called on the government to take effective measures to solve the deteriorating economic crisis, which has forced them to limit their purchases to essentials goods.Economic reports showed that the prices of household appliances rose 30 to 60 percent, causing a decline in sales, at a time when smuggled foreign goods saw a 100 percent increase.

The Statistics Center reported that 30 percent of Iranian families lost the ability to buy home appliances and resort to the flea market for their needs.

In addition, the housing market recorded a strong decline. Media reports indicated that some Iranians, who have failed to pay their mortgages or rent, are now living in tents.

The value of the Iranian rial also continued to drop against the dollar and euro. Social media activists said the sudden imbalance in the market, deteriorating living conditions, and rising prices have increased suicide rates.

Recently, an employee of the Azadegan oil field in the southwest of the country, committed suicide, sparking widespread controversy and prompting the oil minister to open an investigation.

Earlier, the Iranian parliament summoned Minister of Economy Farhad Dejpasand for questioning on the economic situation. Lawmakers issued a constitutional warning to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani demanding measures to stop the increase in prices.Donyae Eqtesad newspaper reported that Rouhani asked the Undersecretary of the Industry Ministry to ensure close supervision and urgent intervention to regulate and control prices of household appliances.

Last week, the President formed a taskforce that includes the ministers of economy and transportation, and the governor of the Central Bank. Rouhani tasked them along with his first deputy, Ezhag Jahangiri, with searching for solutions to the fast rise in home prices.

Economic observers believe that Rouhani should have acted even before the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran to regulate the housing market.