The Statistical Center of Iran building

Iran’s Raisi Sacks Head Of Only Statistical Reporting Center

Monday, 07/17/2023

President Ebrahim Raisi has sacked the head of Iran's Statistics Center and the Social Security Organization, as hardliners purge officials outside their circle.

Javad Hossein-Zadeh was removed from his position as the head of the only government institution issuing statistics on the struggling economy, which somewhat differed from frequent rosy claims and predictions by the president and his immediate aides. He was replaced by Daryush Abouhamzeh, who will serve as the interim head for the moment.

Although Iran's Statistics Center is administered and funded by the government and operates under the umbrella of Planning and Budget Organization, it maintained a veneer of credibility as one of the very scarce sources of data – both economic and social.

The central bank and the ministry of the economy stopped issuing regular economic data in 2019 as US sanctions imposed the previous year pushed an already struggling economy into a deep recession.

Javad Hosseinzadeh, the former head of the Statistical Center of Iran

In the absence of credible data by the Central Bank of Iran about the inflation rates, Iran's Statistics Center became the primary official entity announcing these figures. Government officials and sometimes the central bank announced lower inflation figures prices for consumer goods. 

Abouhamzeh, who was appointed as the economic deputy of the Planning and Budget Organization two months ago, is apparently a graduate of Tehran and Sharif universities in economics. He previously served as a deputy at the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labour, and Social Welfare in 2021.

In that position he was not always honest with official statistics. Once he famously put the poverty line in Iran so way off that his video went viral at the time. Following reactions, it was announced that Abouhamzeh’s data were at least two years old.

Daryush Abouhamzeh

An intriguing development surrounding the Iran Statistics Center is that its official website has remained inaccessible for the past three days without any official explanation.

Also on Monday, reformist daily Etemad said that the head of the Social Security Organization was "dismissed," citing informed sources. Mirhashem Mosavi was reportedly replaced by one of his deputies. The public relations department of the organization has denied the news.

Reports of recent changes in leadership positions of organizations in charge of data about Iran may further raise concerns about the accuracy and transparency of economic indicators in the country.

Last week, lawmaker Gholamreza Nouri Ghezeljeh insisted that the annual inflation rate in Iran is 120 percent, not even 60 or 70 percent as various politicians and academics cite, adding that lower inflation figures close to 40 percent presented by some officials, who claim they have controlled rising prices, is the product of their imagination.

The Iranian government claims to have controlled the inflation rate at about 40 percent. However, as Ghezeljeh noted, "Playing with figures will not solve the problem of Iran's economy. High inflation cannot be concealed from the people as they find out about it when they purchase goods in their everyday life "

The rial’s catastrophic drop tells the story of inflation in Iran. The currency has lost its value 13-fold since 2018. Price inflation is highest in the food sector, which even last year was estimated to have been between 70-100 percent. The country must import a large part of its food, animal feed, medicines, raw materials, and finished goods it needs. As the local currency loses value on the backdrop of international isolation over the regime’s policies, imports become more expensive and higher prices must be passed on to consumers.

Although large-scale anti-regime protests in 2022 and 2023 were driven by social and political oppression, but widespread deprivation also fuels hopelessness among young people.

Ruling hardliners are increasingly pushing members of other camps out of the political arena, and this partly explains purge of officials.

 

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