A grocery store in Iran

Inflation Tops 50% As Iran Starts Offering Gold On Stock Market

Wednesday, 01/25/2023

Despite haphazard state measures such as injecting dollars into the currency market and selling gold on the stock market, inflation is soaring and the rial maintains a downward trend. 

The point-to-point inflation rate reported by the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI) for the past Iranian month, which ended on January 20, has surpassed 50 percent, with food inflation hitting an average of over 70 percent. 

The SCI put overall inflation at 51 percent, taking into account 12 groups of goods and services. The highest jump was reported in the hotel and restaurant sector with 78.5 percent, followed by food. 

The SCI announced food inflation to be over 70 percent, considering the rise in prices of bread and cereals, red meat, dairy products, fruits, etc. The inflation for edible oils and fats was about 248 percent in comparison with the corresponding period of the previous year. Most of the rise was due to the government’s elimination of subsidies for essential goods – factored in the supply chain in the form of cheap dollars for importers. The lowest inflation in the group of food items was reported for tea, coffee, cocoa, soft drinks and fruit juice with an average of 32 percent. 

Medicines and healthcare services recorded a 54-percent increase followed by price increases for transportation and clothing with 46.9 and 45.7, respectively. 

The figures indicated a slower rise in prices as the inflation of food items even reached 100 percent in some provinces in previous months. Most price increases happened since early May when the government scrapped a food import subsidy to save around $15 billion annually. The move immediately triggered a massive rise in prices for basic food staples, such as bread, dairy products, cooking oil and meat. Although the government has repeatedly said its oil exports are steadily increasing despite sanctions by the United States, economic conditions keep deteriorating, with Iran's battered currency, the rial, hitting historic lows in recent months.

The government has taken a slew of measures in the past months to curb inflation and control the freefall of the rial. It replaced the governor of the central bank about a month ago, and has kept injecting dollars into the market to balance out demand. On Tuesday, it started offering gold coins on the stock market and also launched a system for nominally fixed exchange rates for its nosediving currency, which has lost at least 50 percent of its value since mid-2021. 

On Tuesday, one dollar was exchanged for over 440,000 rials to the US dollar, bouncing back from a low of 450,000 in the past couple of days. 

The government started selling gold on the stock market in the form of securities. As per the plan, people can buy up to five gold coins weighing about two grams each (called quarter gold coins in Iran as a full gold coin is about eight grams) at current prices, but they only receive a document for their purchase and will have to wait until the government announces the date when they can receive their coins. People tend to rush for such governmental schemes because by the time they get their coins, the price will be higher as the rial falls, and they can gain a little profit. This way the government gets large amounts of money and only gives people some certificates for their purchase. The government plans to sell 450,000 of these two-gram coins on the stock market in the next 10 days. This will amount to nearly a ton of gold.

Moreover, this week, the government pumped $305 million into the currency market over two days, after rial fell to a historic low of 450,000 against the US dollar.

Earlier in the week, the parliament approved the outlines of the budget bill for the next Iranian year – starting March 21 -- without considering its unrealistic assumptions. The deficit in the current budget that the government admits is about 4,760 trillion rials – more than ten billion dollars. But the real deficit will be perhaps twice as much, with rosy estimates of oil sales and staggering tax collection.

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