Saturday, February 11, 2006

Unexpected Price Hike Cripples Iranian Families

Shervin Omidvar, Rooz Online:
In his election campaign promises, hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had promised to commit to short-term economic projects and allow Iranians to benefit from rising oil revenues. But six months after he has been in power, not only has the life of Iranians deteriorated qualitatively, but it is even imposing a new wave of price hikes, creating grave concerns among ordinary citizens who are not able to meet their daily needs. READ MORE

Recent reports in a number of local publications confirm the new wave of price increases. The price of basic commodities has drastically risen. The Commerce Minister that his ministry which is legally responsible for price controls advises Iranians to consume more chicken to prevent the price hikes of red meat. The minister appears to ignore the fact the due to threat of Avian Flu and a considerable cut in chicken consumption, prices have had a 6% increase. While according to Central Bank figures the consumer price of chicken continues to regularly increase, he believes that the public can help control the price rise by consuming more poultry. He has also asserted that Iran is free from the Avian Flu virus and that the ministry has banned government imports of red meat.

Based on figures recent released by the Central Bank, the price fruits, beans, rice, sugar and red meat has also risen considerably in recent weeks. In the last three months, the price of red meat has dramatically increased by 40%. Although, Mohammad Mousavi, the executive director of the country’s meat products union, and the president of the meat producers association have both acknowledged the recent price hikes, Hamshahri daily quotes the executive director of the central husbandry association that the country is not suffering form a shortage of red meat. It believes that the dramatic increase in prices is due to the activities of middlemen who want to increase meat imports. He stresses that the animal husbandry industry has not only had no role in the price hikes but has in fact sustained heavy losses.

When the deputy Minister of Commerce announced two weeks ago that the price of bread will increase in the forthcoming two months, some government critics objected arguing that the price of bread had been kept constant for the last two years, despite market pressures. They argue that the hardline government and conservatives ruling the Majlis seem to have forgotten their campaign promises of justice and equality.

Economic experts believe the steep price increases in housing, transportation as well as fruits and beans, will be continue because of international pressures on Iran due to the nuclear standoff and possible referral of Iran to the United Nations Security Council. While this rising inflation rate is expected to continue and drastically impact the lives of ordinary low-income Iranians, recent studies by Iran’s Nutrition and Food Industry Institute indicate that millions of Iranians are already suffering from vitamin deficiencies.

The empty campaign promises of supporting the oppressed still echo in Iran. And while the government expands its powers, its weekly announcements indicate poverty is rampant the oil-rich country. Iran’s oil revenue in the first 9 months of the Iranian fiscal year passed the $35 billion mark. Not exactly pennies for a third world country.